Wednesday, March 22, 2006

Peacenicks: you are not alone

I've been meaning to post information about the Michael Franti documentary I saw last week, called I Know I'm Not Alone. For those that don't know of the fabulous Mr. Franti -- he's a progressive independent hip-hop artist who performs both solo and with his band Spearhead. I am convinced that his voice represents the protest music of our generation. He sings (and raps) about the ravages of war, about HIV/AIDS prevention, about homophobia ... you name it. He rocks. And he recently made a documentary about his travels to Iraq, Israel, and the Palestinian Occupied Territories. Although the film has a bit of a "rock star does the Middle East" feel to it, Franti did manage to get some incredible footage I've never seen anywhere else.

Some of the moments that really struck me included:

- The first thing that Franti heard when he landed in Baghdad was the loud buzzing of generators. The whole city is literally covered with home-made electrical sources, being sold on the black market to people who are desperate for more than one hour of power a day. When Franti asked a cab driver about the stink of pollution in the air, the driver laughed at him, explaining that people are way too concerned with daily survival to concentrate on such seemingly trivial matters.

- Most of the people Franti interviewed were grateful that the U.S. helped get rid of Saddam. But they don't understand why they are now living in a permanent state of occupation. They see huge U.S. defence companies getting big money to "rebuild" Iraq, yet the city is still sitting in ruins.

- The U.S. soldiers working in Iraq are scared out of their minds, and they just want to go home. They have been told by their superiors to be suspicious of and antagonistic toward the Iraqi people, and as a result, they see all non-Americans as the enemy. But mostly they just want to see their families.

I won't ruin the film for you, but the portions in the West Bank and Israel are the most interesting, I think. He really managed to capture the reality of war and terrorism from both Arab and Jewish perspectives. He ends the film with a toast to "the peacemakers," no matter where they come from.

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