In this self-helmed docu, political singer-songwriter Michael Franti ventures into Iraq and the Palestinian Territory to find out "what it's like to live under foreign military rule." The toll that occupation takes on civilians and soldiers alike already seems high in Iraq, but when pic moves to the West Bank where an occupation has been ongoing for decades, a hellish vision of what may lie ahead in Iraq clearly emerges.

In this self-helmed docu, political singer-songwriter Michael Franti ventures into Iraq and the Palestinian Territory to find out “what it’s like to live under foreign military rule.” The toll that occupation takes on civilians and soldiers alike already seems high in Iraq, but when pic moves to the West Bank where an occupation has been ongoing for decades, a hellish vision of what may lie ahead in Iraq clearly emerges. “Alone” is filled with Franti’s music but, unlike Neil Young’s album-based “Greendale,” it claims no specific merchandising tie-in. Fests and cable seem docu’s likeliest destinations.

At first somewhat scattershot and home movie-ish, pic soon takes shape as Franti’s dreadlocks and guitar gain him entry into barracks, homes, cafes and workplaces to assess the human cost of war. Camera catches American soldiers under siege roughly manhandling Iraqi civilians as both sides increasingly see the other as the enemy. Iraqis bitterly complain about the lack of electricity, jobs and security, unable to participate in the reconstruction of their own country.

Armed with his guitar and a one-word Arabic song of his own devising, Franti apprehensively ventures into unsecured Iraqi neighborhoods where he is warmly welcomed into homes and local jam sessions. Breaking down barriers with music, Franti encourages taxi drivers, shop owners and families to talk about their experiences before and after the occupation.

Equally leery about crooning anti-war lyrics in military barracks, Franti finds the troops appreciate his effort, if not always his message. The GIs dream of going home and are totally alienated from the civilian community around them. But when Franti introduces American soldiers to Iraq’s first independent radio station, “I Rock Iraq,” they happily hang out with the locals.

In Israel and the occupied territories, Franti focuses his attention on the infamous wall both as a symbol and an enforcer of separation and oppression. Three generations of occupation have advanced the process of dehumanization to a fine point, as the familiar sight of Palestinians lined up for hours to get to their jobs or return home to their families, or the equally familiar sight of the devastation wrought by suicide bombers, eloquently bears out.

Franti also explores various peacemaking efforts of both the institutional and the individual stripes, happily playing alongside grassroots musicians, traditional, rock and hip-hop groups that recruit both Israeli and Palestinian members.

Though Franti covers little ground in Israel that has not already been well mined by countless documentarians, the context of Iraq and how American forces will be perceived for the indefinite future, puts an entirely new perspective on the situation.

Tech credits are consistent with pic’s seat-of-the-pants production, the editing and score adding music video-type continuity.

I Know I Am Not Alone

Production

A Stay Human Films presentation of a Michael Franti and Guerilla Management production. Produced by Michael Franti. Directed by Michael Franti.

Crew

Camera (color, DV), Catherine Enny, Rick Rowley, Sinem Saban, Jackie Salloum, Jackie Soohan; edited by Carla Swanson; music, Franti; sound, Bruce Hanifan. Reviewed on cassette for African Diaspora Film Festival, New York, Dec. 6, 2005. Running time: 93 MIN. (English, Arabic dialogue)
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