It's too bad Michael Franti couldn't translate the visceral energy of Baghdad into the music of Yell Fire!, the album released in tandem with this documentary (which he directed, produced, narrated and scored). Franti says he's never heard politicians speak about the human cost of war, so he wanted to experience Iraqi life under U.S. rule. This is a glimpse of 2006 Baghdad, broken down to Franti (who segues occasionally with his own acoustic jams, seeming humbled, not self-congratulatory) by local people ranging from doctors to cab drivers to punk rockers.
Given how Iraqis are usually presented in such a one-dimensional way, this unsensational film has a highly humanizing effect. In fact, the musicians in I Know I'm Not Alone are among the most DIY in the world. One band, Black Scorpions, use homemade generators and distortion pedals and guitar strings made from random wires. The bassist's guitar reads EAT FUCK in black tape. Another player discusses being pressured by the former government to write a song about Saddam. Anyone politically and musically minded will be glued to this sharp work.