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Free Tibet
Free Tibet
Actors: Beck, Björk, Matt Boner, Jimmy Chamberlin, Tim Commerford
Director: Sarah Pirozek
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
NR     2000     1hr 30min

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 ser...  more »


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Movie Details

Actors: Beck, Björk, Matt Boner, Jimmy Chamberlin, Tim Commerford
Director: Sarah Pirozek
Creators: Adam Yauch, Christopher Covert, Jay Faires, John Sloss, Laura Poitras, Maria Ma, Steve Paine
Genres: Music Video & Concerts, Musicals & Performing Arts, Documentary
Sub-Genres: Concerts, Pop, Rock & Roll, Rap & Hip-Hop, Documentary, Biography
Studio: Palm Pictures / Umvd
Format: DVD - Color,Full Screen
DVD Release Date: 08/29/2000
Original Release Date: 09/11/1998
Theatrical Release Date: 09/11/1998
Release Year: 2000
Run Time: 1hr 30min
Screens: Color,Full Screen
Number of Discs: 1
SwapaDVD Credits: 1
Total Copies: 0
Members Wishing: 1
MPAA Rating: NR (Not Rated)
Languages: English

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Movie Reviews

Free Tibet concert should have been literally FREE!
A. Gyurisin | Wet, Wild, Wonderful Virginia | 02/05/2005
(2 out of 5 stars)

"There is an aura of apathy with nearly everyone in attendance from the people to the bands that this is just another venue without any special purpose. This is just one of the few building blocks that crumble beneath director Sarah Pirozek on her feature documentary. She attempts to create this world where artists perform because they care about the immediate cause while, all the while in front of an audience that is ready to learn nearly everything they can. Free Tibet is to represent the joined hands of the music industry, a world full of terror, and the knowledge of the youth of our nation. It is to show that with the right message, anything can happen thanks to popularity and publicity. Well, I would hate to tell Pirozek this, but this was not the message conveyed in this documentary. What I witnessed was snippets of the bands performing their more popular song (to aquaint those for a brief moment with an artist that they may not know by name but by tune), massive amounts of audience members surfing through the audiences and banging their heads to the music (not so much learning about Tibet), and finally intermixed through all of this are random bits of unconnected information about Tibet and the horrors that they are facing. There is no wonder, at least in my mind, why one of the concert goers merely said, "I care, ya know, but short attention span." It was the same way that I felt about this film. There was no coherent structure to this film only visual proof that while a good cause may be the point of the concert, the overall effect is something completely different.

As I watched artists like Beck, Foo Fighters, the Fugees, and even Smashing Pumpkins take the stage, I kept waiting to see if they would mention Tibet in any of their songs, or stop the concert to talk about the problems that Tibet is facing. They may have done this, but sadly these were not images or moments that Pirozek wanted to show in her documentary. Instead, we found the youth of our nation being thrown around in pits of mud, screaming their lungs out, while seemingly having a good time. This is all great because these people probably paid top dollar for these tickets to come here, but I needed more information about Tibet than what was presented in this half rock concert half-documentary. If you are going to name your film Free Tibet, we need more than just snippets of song and people sleeping on the lawn. It was images like this that completely ravished Pirozek's point. There we would have a band singing on stage or a random insert of information about Tibet, followed up with images of ticket holders sleeping or teenie boppers running away from those willing to hand out information because it was their job, not because they "cared". This was an enourmous problem for me because I really do care about what is happening in Tibet and want to see change come in my lifetime, but sadly these were not going to be the people that provided it.

The same goes for the artists performing that day. If you look at the whole day of events, there were probably only a handful of artists that actually cared for the cause they were playing for. Bjork was one of them, Flea from Red Hot Chilli Peppers, and of course, the spokesperson for Tibet, the Beastie Boys. Outside of these few people, I don't think that anyone was there for the purpose of Tibetan freedom, but instead to play to the mass audiences so that their records will do better down the road. It kinda made you sick to your stomach. I think Sonic Youth put it correctly when they said that most people think that rock stars have this sense of publicity around them, when in fact they are no different than you or I. My understanding was that they didn't really care about the concert, they were performing for their business.

Perhaps I am being to harsh on this film, but I really wanted to walk away from it thinking to myself that the sole purpose for these bands to gather for their fans is for the Tibetan refugees and the horror that China commits to their country, sadly this is not what I walked away with. Even if the Buddhists were to gain their freedom tomorrow, we would still see a "Free Tibet" concert happening next year because the fans want it and because rock stars have bills to pay too. Cynical, perhaps. Realistic, I think so. This was not a film about Tibet, this was a documentary to showcase some of the more popular songs of artists to hopefully increase record sales.

Overall (if you couldn't tell already), I was disappointed with the structure, layout, and development of this documentary. What could have been used (like the concert should have) as a healthy vehicle to further the information to the youth of our nation about what is happening in Tibet instead was just another way for money to be earned in the long run. Pirozek's random camera shots obliterated her points that she was continually trying to establish and the expressions/reactions from the crowd couldn't have been more demeaning. This was a sorry attempt for a protest and should have been mapped out a bit more wisely.

I did have one good point. I really enjoyed hearing Bjork's entire song "Hyper-ballad". Her music really is well beyond our time. For her alone I will give this film an extra rating ... for her only!

Grade: ** out of *****"
Monks, music, and more...
M. Miller | TN | 07/07/2003
(3 out of 5 stars)

"Now, when I got this it was because I love concert videos of all types, but it also shows some information about Tibet and the Tibetan cause. Although this makes sense I did not think that the Tibetan cause would be so interwoven into the video of the concert. It was not dull and definitely put a different perspective into what would be thought of as just a good concert. For example, interviews with the monks about the concert, and interviews with the fans about the Tibetan cause diversified the concert video. Overall, it was just okay, with definitely a varied group of artists. From Bjork to the Foo Fighters to John Lee Hooker to Beck and more you will hear a wide range of styles. Most of them only sing one song, except for Beck who does two, so if you really want to hear a lot of songs from one artist sorry, that is not how they did it. So if you like seeing concert videos, and/or you are a free Tibet person than I recommend it, otherwise it's not the greatest, just average."
Cyberia Mix K.I.D.S.
rognip | 10/09/2002
(5 out of 5 stars)

"I would like to further my last review. Free Tibet-- stunning musical performences made this gem shine. Being a HUGE Beastie boy fan, to say the least, I was very excited the very first time I gripped my sweaty palms onto Free Tibet. Mainly because I have never seen them perform on stage. Now it might sound like I bought it solely for that 5 minute performence, Which is true. But the documentry on tibet was interesting and inspired me to learn more about this current affair."
bethillyse | stupid albany | 07/28/1999
(5 out of 5 stars)

"i caught a screening of this movie about a year & a half ago. It's pretty powerful. It really makes you want to help out in any way that you can."