A Rock & Roll Odyssey in the sands of the Sahara. Libya, 2011... Amidst the bloody revolution to overthrow the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi, a music scene emerges from the dust of war, and becomes the talisman of resistance.
Interview with director Matthew Millan
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
At the beginning of the 2011 Libyan uprising, a Libyan friend of mine living in LA asked me to go to Benghazi with him. At that point, I wanted to see for myself what was occurring during the Arab Spring, so I made the heavy decision to cross that border, and into the dust of revolution.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
I truly believe that the value of this film has been raised significantly in recent months, as a consequence of the actions of the new administration. Too often people from the MENA region are treated as The Other, without any side here truly trying to understand the hopes and aspirations of the people. The importance of films like STRONGER THAN BULLETS cannot be overstated, for they focus on building bridges across the chasms of culture through shared humanity.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
When I witnessed volunteers disarming a bomb that was placed in a cake and was delivered to the Media Center (a place where all the youth gravitated toward to craft music and art that was proscribed during the Gaddafi era), it really struck home. Over here, we take for granted the simple act of going to our garage and jamming on the guitar. In Benghazi, that freedom of expression was considered enough of a threat by the tyrant to send a bomb disguised in a cake. Therein lies the difference. And that in essence is the true spirit of rock & roll. Not for marketing, not for exploiting demographics...but for the sheer right to play, and nothing less. Freedom of expression is something to be revered and protected worldwide. And after witnessing the danger in being part of a counter-culture in Benghazi, I will never take for granted my right to express myself freely again.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development and production?
This is a very difficult question to answer, since the story itself has been so fluid. From revolution to victory to the abyss of civil war, the very landscape of the story has been so fluid in the last few years. Sadly, there is no rousing ending. What we are left with, instead, is the sheer determination of the musicians to continue to play music, even as the situation deteriorates around them.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
The feedback has been extraordinary. We have garnered more accolades than I ever expected. I think people are really taken by the overall vibe of the film. For the audience, it's not an average documentary. Many have told me that it is has a certain attitude and swagger about it that captures the spirit of rock & roll.
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I suppose that I never expected so many people to relate to the Libyan musicians on such a fundamental level. I tried to edit the film a bit differently - more like a punk song - but what has actually surprised me is that so many people pick up on that energy.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
The important thing is exposure. The Libyan musicians accomplished absolutely amazing things during the revolution. One in particular, a troubadour named Masoud Buisir, I see as a champion of the right to expression on level that should supersede even icons like Bob Marley. I know that is a bold statement, but those who have seen the film understand what I am saying.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
We need journalists, and critics in particular, to write (and speak) about the film. In this time where division is being sewn on all sides, we need stories that remind us of our shared humanity. But these stories have little value if they are not seen. Hence I believe that the value of journalists reporting on such stories cannot be overstated.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
I honestly would like to see STRONGER THAN BULLETS develop into the beginning of a much greater movement that concentrates on the shared humanity through music. Embedded in that is the movement to support freedom of expression wherever the sun shines.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
How do we break through the initial stereotypes of people who seem like an Other at first glance, and embrace our similarities and shared humanity, particularly when the 24-hour media generally focuses on the differences?
Would you like to add anything else?
I have always been fascinated with the beginning of movements. So I consider myself extremely fortunate to have witnessed the genesis of a counter-culture, and in Libya of all places. In many ways what I witnessed shares the spirit of the halycon days of the Woodstock Era. The music was based on the very right to play, and the musicians were more concerned about such an existential thing rather than dreams of stardom. And as a result, the music sounded much purer to me, not as a tool for fame, but as a light to shine in the darkness.
What are the key creatives developing or working on now?
We are working on a greater movement to support freedom of expression by supporting artists worldwide through vignettes, collaborations and festivals. Further, we are working on a project that aims to build bridges between Evangelicals on Muslims by focusing on the common ground rather than the cultural differences in a project entitled 'Bridge to Hope'. Through our work, for instance, we show that nearly 50% of the Qur'an is directly taken from the Aramaic Bible.
Interview: March 2017
We Are Moving Stories embraces new voices in drama, documentary, animation, TV, web series and music video. If you have just made a film - we'd love to hear from you. Or if you know a filmmaker - can you recommend us? More info: Carmela
STRONGER THAN BULLETS
A Rock & Roll Odyssey in the sands of the Sahara. Libya, 2011...Amidst the bloody revolution to overthrow the tyrant Muammar Gaddafi, a music scene emerges from the dust of war, and becomes the talisman of resistance.
Length: 88 minutes
Director: Matthew Millan
Producer: Alistair Audsley, Harold Millan, Hammuda Abidia
About the writer, director and producer:
Director: MATTHEW MILLAN boasts an unconventional background for a filmmaker. He graduated from UCSC with a Physics degree, but ended up co - founding 180 Films.
Executive Producer: ALISTAIR AUDSLEY has worked all over the globe as a marketing consultant for in emerging markets, such as Russia, Panama, and the Middle East.
Producer: HAROLD MILLAN is the U.S Producer of STRONGER THAN BULLETS. Previously, he has been a producer of the short documentary WE WIN OR WE DIE.
Producer: HAMMUDA ABIDIA is the Libyan Producer of STRONGER THAN BULLETS. Hammuda is also one of the main subjects of the film.
Key cast: Masoud Buisir, Jasmin "Dado" Ikanovic, MC Swat, Malik L, Hammuda Abidia, Mostafa "Bofa" El Dali
Looking for (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists): Journalists, film festival directors, buyers
Funders: Harold Millan, Matthew Millan, Alistair Audsley, Crowdfunding
Made in association with: Turning Tables
Where can I see it in the next month? Cleveland International Film Festival, American Documentary Film Festival in Palm Springs, Master of Art Film Festival in Sofia, Bulgaria.