We Are the Thousand [SXSW Review]

I should start this review by saying that Foo Fighters are my favorite band. Even if they weren't, I'd still be enthralled by We Are the Thousand, a documentary about one man's quest to get the band to play in his home area. We live in a time when our country is so divided. How nice to see a movie in which people from all walks of life actually come together to make something positive happen. We could all learn a lesson from it.

We don't get a lot of background on Fabio Zaffagnini, except that he worked as a geologist. What we do know is that he loves Foo Fighters and wanted to find a way to convince them to make the trip to Cesena, Italy to perform a concert. Knowing it would take a grand gesture to even get their attention, he came up with the idea to assemble a thousand musicians and have them play the band's “Learning to Fly” in unison. Director Anita Rivaroli could have devoted more time to examining how he formed the idea or why he chose Foo Fighters over other rock bands – a significant flaw, although not a fatal one.

Fabio is unsure whether people will show up once he issues the call for volunteers, but they do. We Are the Thousand enjoyably shows the logistical problems he and his team face. For starters, they have to find a way to guarantee that all the musicians can hear one another. Then there's getting them all to keep the same beat. Amazingly, the obstacles are overcome and their video goes online, where it does indeed attract the notice of lead Foo Fighter Dave Grohl.

That's inspiring stuff, reminding viewers that it's good to dream big because you never know what might happen. We Are the Thousand doesn't stop there, though. Musicians from the mega-band are interviewed on camera, talking about how the event changed them. Gathering with so many disparate people who share a love of music proved transformative. The Thousand, as they are now called, decided to continue performing together.

Who couldn't love that idea? We Are the Thousand is a celebration of unity. All the musicians agree to uphold a few basic rules – that they'll only play the notes given, none of them will attempt to show off, etc. Everybody believes in the basic idea, so they happily collaborate instead of competing. Regardless of what you think of Foo Fighters, the documentary will make you feel good with its message that diverse people can still unite and honor the things they have in common, rather than focusing on their differences. They can produce magic, too.


out of four

We Are the Thousand is unrated, but contains adult language. The running time is 1 hour and 18 minutes.