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Michael Franti (Spearhead) - conducted by Hugo Lunny  

Communicating Social Justice

April 2005

Credible artists are hard to find. Most, when given the opportunity will sell out, why not? We all need money. Few of us actually have strong enough moral fiber to seek something better and inspire change on a global basis. Michael Franti however has. After beginning his musical career frustrated and angry, he moved onto more uplifting, sensual and happy material and travels the globe routinely performing in a unique manner drawing together all audiences he performs before.

Franti visited Iraq last year and also explored Israel and Palestine. His findings drove him to create the forthcoming documentary "I Know I'm Not Alone," detailing what has gone on and is occurring within these ignored and inaccurately portrayed areas.

MVRemix: The last time I saw you perform was when you were in Vancouver at the end of October. You spoke out how you were confident that Bush wasn't going to be re-elected. How do you feel since his re-instatement?

Michael Franti: I suppose not very confident. [chuckles]

MVRemix: What are your feelings about what has been going on in the past few months?

Michael Franti: I feel like this journey that we're on to de-militarize our nation - when I speak of that I speak of those of us who are opposed to war and are opposed to Bush's agenda... The long haul. I don't feel like we necessarily lost a huge battle by not electing John Kerry. I feel like even if Kerry was in office he would still be shouting the same things that Bush was in a kinder and gentler way. The only way things are going to change - having my own experience of Iraq and the Middle East is when things get so bad that everybody says they can't continue. The Vietnam war didn't end until 50,000 Americans were killed and I'm hoping that we don't have to get to that point before we see the death of 175,000 Iraqi civilians.

MVRemix: Who conceived the idea for the documentary "I Know I'm Not Alone"?

Michael Franti: I was sitting in a tour bus one day with my friend Doug, and he said as a sweet question but he said "What do you wanna be when you grow up?" After a couple of days of thinking about it, I came back to him and I said "I'd like to be the best communicator of social justice that I can be." He said "Well, what does that mean?" And I said "It means being a skilled songwriter, putting the band first always and going and seeing places firsthand, that I would then write songs about."
"If I gave you a plane ticket and you had to do was fill in the name of the city, where would you go?"
And I just blurted out "Bahgdad."
So I talked to my manager Catherine and I just went. It wasn't with any intentions, we just did a couple of benefit concerts and were just gonna raise some money.

MVRemix: Did the whole group head over?

Michael Franti: No, I asked the whole group if they wanted to come. But nobody felt really the passion that it was worth taking the risks.

MVRemix: How long in total did your stay last over there?

Michael Franti: I was there for two weeks in the Middle East; traveling between Jordan, Iraq, Israel and Palestine.

MVRemix: The version you showed at Slamdance was dubbed as a "work-in-progress," is the documentary now finished and if so how does it differ with what was shown?

Michael Franti: When I was in Israel and Palestine, I really spent most of my time in Gaza and the West Bank. I guess the best way to describe it is that Israel is very much the first world and Gaza and the West Bank are very much the third world. They have the fourth largest military in the world which is Israel controlling a civilian and refugee population in Palestine. And so I spent most of my time there hearing the perspective of Palestinian people and their hardship - what it's like to go through and deal with checkpoints everyday, where you wait hours in the hot sun just to travel five blocks

MVRemix: Was that this past February you're referring to?

Michael Franti: Yes, just last month.

MVRemix: So was that also filmed?

Michael Franti: Yeah, and that's what we're including in the film now. I just felt like it was important in bringing up the issue of the conflict that we filmed both Palestinian voices and Israeli voices. The film that we'd cut before was mainly Palestinian voices.

MVRemix: What is it that you wish for audiences that will see the final documentary to take from it?

Michael Franti: The main thing is the human side of war. What makes up the human side; the human cost of war. Just how much people suffer in the things we look at in the paper. When I was in Gaza, I was struck by the fact that anything that happened in the neighbourhood that I was in is front-page headlines. This is one of the poorest neighbourhoods I've ever been in. Even though it makes front-page headlines, we never hear the voices of those who are effected by it. I want people to see the human side of things and also I really want to show the power of music. Not specifically my music, but the power of music in each of our lives to help us get through difficult times.

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