Sunday, March 23, 2008

Free Tibet (1998)

Heres a documentary/concert film of the Free Tibet Concert in San Fran in 1997. I havent watched it yet and it gets some pretty poor reviews, but with all thats going down in China/Tibet these days I thought it would make a good DL.

Midway through Sarah Pirozek's concert documentary, Free Tibet, about the 1997 two-day benefit show in San Francisco, Smashing Pumpkin guitarist James Iha clearly summarizes the proceedings. "It's hard to expect real serious intentions with a rock concert with millions of kids." Indeed. Most of the thousands in attendance over the weekend didn't know squat, much less care, about the situation in Tibet. As long as they got to see Rage Against the Machine hammer home their political fury or A Tribe Called Quest kick out the jams, everything would be fine. This documentary, which mixes concert footage with backstage and crowd interviews, political lectures, and archival footage of Tibet's downtrodden history, successfully captures both the good intentions of the festival organizers and the ignorant audience reception, i.e., kids more interested in moshing and partying than world peace. As one kids puts it, "I care, ya know, but short attention span." The same unfortunately can be said of Pirozek's approach to all of this. She directs the film like she has ants in her pants, and then cuts it together with a blender. If you want the film to catch live moments by your favorite bands, you'll be disappointed. Pirozek rarely keeps the camera onstage long enough to enjoy the bands. Only Bjork's mesmerizing performance of "Hyper-Ballad" and Sonic Youth's "Bull in the Heather" are played in their entirety; otherwise, bands are interrupted by interviews, speeches, and random bits of Tibetan history. While it's admirable for the documentary to teach its audience along with entertaining with music, its approach is halfhearted on both accounts.

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