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Nonprofit launches music video contest in hopes of kindling anti-war sentiment

John Byrne
Published: Monday April 24, 2006

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An alternative rock band is joining with a music-oriented nonprofit in an attempt to rally anti-war sentiment through music videos, RAW STORY has learned.

Justice Through Music, a national group that uses music to catalyze youth interest in U.S. politics, has announced a contest in which entrants are asked to submit music videos to accompany an anti-war song written by the indy rock band Op-Critical. The group hopes to stir up anti-war sentiment using music.

On their website, the band debuts their own protest video, shot at Arlington National Cemetery. The video captures the funeral of Army Specialist Kendall Frederick, a Maryland native who was killed in Iraq by a roadside bomb. Op-Critical shot the video at Arlington last October, and has since been banned from making films at the cemetery.

Op-Critical spokesman Craig Gillette says they’ve been encouraged by the upcoming release of Neil Young’s ‘impeach the president’ album. Young has brought new life to the anti-war crowd, Gillette says, and he hopes the group’s contest will do the same. Op-Critical is offering $500 for winners in each of six categories: rock, alternative rock, urban, R&B, country and other.

“Music has power,” Gillette says. Musicians “should use that power to help bring about social change to leave a better world behind.”

“We hope it will create a brushfire effect to get other people involved and help people speak out,” he added.

The contest comes on the heels of a new Neil Young album in which the country rock icon calls for President Bush’s impeachment. Young, who has supported Bush in the past, says the album is about “empowering people by giving them a voice.” (Raw Story did an advance review of Young’s album this weekend – you can read it here.)

Gillette, who grew up as a military brat, says there is a personal element to the campaign. His father supports the war.

“Right now there’s a rift between my dad and I, who’s a Bush backer,” Gillette said. “The main thing I see about the music is young kids listen to musicians more than they listen to their parents. I know when I was young I’d go to my room and listen to a record.”

Videos to accompany the group’s song “Ornament” are due by Sept. 15. Winners will be chosen by a panel that includes Jeff Cohen, a prominent entertaiment attorney, and will likely include judges from the American Film Institute. Op-Critical will enter the best videos at the Indie Music Video Festival.

Gillette says the goal of the project is to “get people involved.” He points to the rich political music protest landscape of the 1960s as a model, where music fueled a broad anti-war movement.

“Back in the 60s music played a big role in terms of political and social change and there’s no reason why it can’t be done now,” Gillette said.

“We want videos that have staying power, that make a cultural statement, and that have an emotional component to them so that they will influence youth,” he added. “Politicians spend hundreds of millions if not billions of dollars on ads to influence middle class America, and they basically ignore young people totally; and we feel like the music videos are like the cultural statements or the ads for young people, so we hope to get them involved and influence them to make the right decision in November.”

Op-Critical was banned from shooting video at Arlington after officials discovered the film was being used to protest the war. But their sample video – which shows Frederick’s grieving widow and his young son dealing with the loss of a father to a war fought on foreign soil – provides a vivid illustration of how music can be tooled to influence political sentiment.