Music for change

Just before the G20 launched in Toronto this past weekend, realscreen caught up with Summer Love, co-director of the timely Sounds Like a Revolution, to talk about her seven-year effort to make a documentary about music's place in today's protest movement.
June 30, 2010

Toronto directors Summer Love and Jane Michener corralled a wide array of musicians including the Dixie Chicks, Henry Rollins, Rage Against the Machine’s Tom Morello, David Crosby, Michael Franti, Ani DiFranco and Anti-Flag to appear in Sounds Like a Revolution, a doc examining the place of music in today’s protest movement.

Love began the project seven years ago after buying a camera and investigating who was speaking out after 9/11. ‘I just kept following people who were doing things that I believed in and following a series of shut downs that were happening to people at that time,’ she says, citing Franti in particular, as it was reported by some sources that he and his band Spearhead were being monitored by the FBI following 9/11.

‘The film is about the new wave of activism and about a revolution in the music industry, how artists are trying to connect with their fans directly and not only creating a fan base but inspiring them to act,’ says Love.

Getting all the artists on board took a lot of time and honest letters about why it was important to include their stories in the documentary. The Dixie Chicks in particular took a long time to reach, but eventually they shared the story of how radio stations stopped playing their catalog after group member Natalie Maines stated her disapproval of President George W. Bush at a London concert. ‘The question I was asking was if the largest grossing female act of all time could be shut down in such a way and receive such a backlash from trying to speak their truth, what hope does any independent group have? It seems insurmountable,’ said Love.

The artists’ music was necessary to illustrate the point of the film, but it was a large task getting clearance to use the songs. It took the filmmakers two years to work on the artists, management companies and assorted labels for the permission to use the music. Luckily for Love and Michener, the Dixie Chicks owned their own publishing and many of the artists started their own labels and have retained their own rights.

‘Getting an opportunity to meet David Crosby, going to a protest with Pete Seeger, these are things that you don’t walk away from unchanged,’ says Love of the process of making the film.

Canadian network Super Channel came on board about a year and a half ago and supported the film, and Love says the Rogers Documentary Fund was also a huge help. Other sources such as the Ontario Arts Council and the National Film Board helped along the way and kept the filmmakers going through the seven-year path to get the film completed. It has aired on Super Channel and will make its U.S. premiere at the Woodstock Film Festival, which runs from September 29 to October 3. Love says that she’s pitched the Woodstock Film Festival organizers a benefit concert with some of the acts from the film to raise funds for the oil spill cleanup, to keep the revolutionary spirit going.

Following a screening at the NXNE music, film and interactive conference in Toronto, the doc had its theatrical opening in Toronto on June 25, and will open in July 2 in Ottawa, with more dates to follow.

About The Author
Daniele Alcinii is a news reporter at realscreen, the leading international publisher of non-fiction film and television industry news and content. He joins the rs team with journalism experience following a stint out west with Sun Media in Edmonton's Capital Region, and communications work in Melbourne, Australia and Toronto. You can follow him on Twitter at @danielealcinii.