HAPPY AMONG THE CROWDS: Michael Franti performs out in the general area with crowds at Bluesfest 2018 .
HAPPY AMONG THE CROWDS: Michael Franti performs out in the general area with crowds at Bluesfest 2018 . Marc Stapelberg

Movie review: Laugh, cry and dance with Michael Franti

THERE is no antidote against cynicism but Michael Franti may as well be our secret weapon against it.

Michael Franti, 51, is an American musician, poet, spoken word artist and singer-songwriter, familiar to Northern Rivers audiences as one of Bluesfest's most popular live performers.

His shows at Bluesfest and around the world, are like ministries preaching the gospel of humanity.

So Stay Human (2018), the film, is not really a musical film or a formal documentary, as producer, director and subject are the same person, Franti.

To watch this film remember that there is bias, there is a clear message to convey and there is a signature at the bottom of this manifesto.

This film is an open letter from the artist to his fellow human beings, one that offers his personal story, and that of people he admires or simply likes, to show the humanity that we all share.

My initial reservations about this film were that Franti could have inadvertently served a dish overcooked with self-indulgence, but as soon as you remember this is not a documentary, but a direct message from the filmmaker, the tone of the film is clear and, finally, it works.

Stay Human is sprinkled with fragility, tough times, bad news, awful circumstances and, at the same time, filled with beauty, emotion, connection, and above all, love. Lots of it.

But you need to learn to accept that love, that's the audience's challenge.

Franti shares the tales of Robin Lim, a midwife who opened a birthing clinic in the aftermath of a devastating typhoon in the Philippines; plus that of Steve and Hope Dezember, a young couple whose love carries them through Steve's battle with ALS.

There is also Arief Rabik, an environmental scientist in Bali who perfected a method to make industrial and household products with bamboo in an effort to curb deforestation.

We are also introduced to Sive Mazinyo and Busisiwwe Vazi, who inspire their community of Port Elizabeth, South Africa, through music and education.

Stay Human is almost a manifesto of good intention: it's not asking us to do anything but to stop, breathe, smile and keep going, and that's the best ans simplest message we sometimes need.

So leave the cynicism outside, or take it into the theatre, it won't last long anyway.

The Byron Bay screening will be the first public international screening of the film.

  • At Byron Theatre on Friday, October 12, at the Opening Gala of the Byron Bay Film Festival 2018. Visit bbff.com.au.

    Stay Human

  • Time: 94 minutes
  • Genre: Music, documentary
  • Producers: Michael Franti, Sara Agah Franti, Tom Sebastian
  • Director / Composer: Michael Franti
  • Reviewer: Javier Encalada
  • Verdict: 4.5 / 5