A Conversation with Michael Franti
By Dani Burlison
By Dani Burlison
The experience of sitting down face to face with Michael Franti wasn’t nearly as
intimidating as I expected it would be while I sat waiting, watching the Palestinian dance
troupe scurrying through the halls of the Santa Rosa Veteran’s Hall. Maybe the fact that he
was sitting, rather than standing up, towering over my small frame, helped ease the
nervousness. He was also casually barefoot (as usual) and approached me as an old friend
and colleague – ready to discuss his new film, our children, graffiti art and Odwalla’s new
Purple Superfood smoothies.
Michael Franti is a Bay Area celebrity musician, activist, father and most recently, a
film-maker. His latest project is a documentary film entitled, “I Know I’m Not Alone”, in which
he takes on the controversial issues of the war in Iraq and the ongoing conflict in Israelioccupied
Palestine. We sat down to discuss the importance of his film and the slow
progression of “wiggle room” in today’s political environment.
“People are very inspired by the film,” says Franti. “But, making the film was very
difficult. We are at war right now and I took on the issue of Israel and Palestine. You just say
those two words and BOOM! It’s like a powerful explosion.”
Franti spent over a year editing “I Know I’m Not Alone” in order to get all of the
perspectives covered, focusing mostly on his own experience of visiting war torn Iraq and
“You could have a film with two hours of bombs dropping and show that perspective of
war or you could have a two hour movie about the dinner you have in a restaurant during a
war. My perspective is that there is a light that we can move on to. I was trying to show in this
film some of the examples of how we can see this light.”
One recent example of this light is Ariel Sharon leaving the Likud Party and starting his
own. Franti pointed out that “For somebody who is very right wing militant to say, ‘I am going
to break away from the hard line of the party’ is big! It gives a lot of people who may be on
the fence the opportunity to speak up. It gives them some wiggle room.”
Franti and I agreed that Sharon’s move wouldn’t necessarily immediately improve the
conflict in Palestine, but that it is movement and movement is a positive thing. “We aren’t
going to have our ideals. Palestinians won’t have their ideals and Jews in Israel won’t have
their ideals, but there can be a middle ground. That is what I am interested in working toward
and that’s what I hope my film inspires- that there is an opportunity within the conflict to
When discussing his recent tour around the US, for film screenings of “I know I’m Not
Alone”, I asked Franti about how well he and his film had been received in some of the more
conservative areas of “Middle America. “ He assured me that his experience has been
nothing other than positive and that he plans on showing the film in Iraq as well as Israel after
he is done with his US tour.
“You know, I think in our country today, there is a big switch. People don’t want the
war in Iraq. Seeing that only 37% of people here support Bush… Wow. That doesn’t just
happen because he f*cked up on a few things and people are suddenly waking up. It
happened because millions of people sat down at their dinner tables and talked to their
families about it. Millions of people sat down in the streets and protested and raised their
voices about it.”
In the end, when the Superfood was gone and we had shared laughs about our
children trying to rebel against our radical parenting, Franti helped reassure and inspire me.
He has confidence that when we can move away from the fear that the US government and
Israeli government prey upon, opportunities for change and movement arise.
“Don’t ever think that anything you do is too small. There is a light out there.” He says.
I couldn’t agree more. Thanks for leading us to the light, Michael. See you in the streets.
There will be a screening of “I Know I’m not Alone” in Sebastopol in late January.
Check out www.spearheadvibrations.com/tourdates.cfm for more info.
Sonoma County Peace Press: