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Rolling Stone article on "Freedom" video

Gritty cinema verite images blend with tumultuous live performance. Big, uneven type runs bulletinlike - stark and ominous- across each frame to tell the story of American Indian activist Leonard Peltier. "Freedom" is the first MTV video from Rage Against The Machine, a group whose whose hellbent, single-minded dedication to its left-wing politics is remarkable, even in an era when PC is de rigeur.

"I believe in this band's ability to bridge the gab between entertainment and activism," declares singer Zack de la Rocha - and the band's ambitions for "Freedom" are lofty indeed. Rage Against The Machine Against the Machine hope the video will prompt President Clinton to sign an order of executive clemency freeing Peltier, who was sentenced in 1975 on charges resulting from the deaths of two federal agents during an uprising on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation, in South Dakota.

Clinton "owes so much to MTV," adds bassist Timmy C. "Robert Redford used millions of dollars of his own money to make [Incident at Oglala, a documentary on the case], and Peltier is still in prison. I hope we can take it a step forward."

"Freedom" uses news footage and clips from Redford's film (his representatives were very helpful, the band reports) as well as text from Peter Matthiessen's book about the Pine Ride rebellion, "In the Spirit of Crazy Horse".

Researching Peltier's case "introduced me to myself in a lot of ways," explains De la Rocha, "because I'm a Chicano and my history is very rooted in the indigenous peoples of this continent. A lot of what's happened to Leonard and his people is reflective of my history."

The band has been handing out pamphlets about the case at it's shows for some time now but decided that Peltier's current plight (having exhausted the appeals process, he has just one legal recourse: executive clemency) warranted a plunge into MTV, a medium its members are apparently none too fond of. "Leonard Peltier is a political prisoner," says De la Rocha, "but he's much more than that. He symbolizes the continuance of the U.S. genocidal policy that's been perpetrated against the native peoples of this country."

Before returning to the studio for the follow-up to their eponymous gold debut, Rage Against The Machine are planning a series of benefits for the American Indian Movement, of which Peltier is a member, as well as the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee. De la Rocha will also be visiting Peltier at the U.S. Penitentiary at Leavenworth, in Kansas.

In the meantime, "Freedom" is in the coveted Buzz Bin rotation on MTV, though the members are pissed the the cable channel won't allow the video to include the address of the Leonard Peltier Defense Committee (it is: P.O. Box 583, Lawrence, KS 66044). An MTV spokeswoman says the channel would not allow the address to run on the video because "we want to make sure we differentiate videos from public-service announcements."

"It's the first time I've tried to get across a sizable chunk of information in a music-video format," says the video's director, Peter Christopherson, whose credits include videos for Nine Inch Nails and Ministry. so much of MTV, he adds, is "nothing but meaningless retinal stimulation." Typically, the band refused to do the video the usual way, miming to playback, instead insisting on live takes with an audience. "It was challenging in terms of editing," admits Christopherson, "but it's indicative of their dedication - it's more important for them that their audience can see that they're being genuine [than for the video to be perfectly synced]. In the end, it made the video stronger. What you see is the real thing."

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