Stay Human follows musician Michael Franti as he explores the stories of several individuals who are attempting to stay optimistic in the face of serious adversity and affect positive change within their respective communities, with the documentary also focusing on the details of Franti’s own struggles and his efforts at making peace with the turbulent aspects of his own life and past. There’s little doubt that Stay Human benefits substantially from filmmaker Franti’s decidedly earnest perspective and point of view, as the documentary boasts a number of unexpectedly engrossing and palpably emotional stretches that prove exceedingly difficult to resist – with the best and most cogent illustration of this a segment involving the exploits of a man coping with ALS (ie it’s simultaneously heartbreaking and uplifting, somehow). The movie’s structure does ensure that certain stretches fare better than others – the tale of a man trying to establish bamboo as an environmentally-sound form of lumber doesn’t really boast that down-to-earth, human touch that’s been hard-wired into the other stories, for example – and yet it remains clear that the connecting thread (ie Franti himself) is compelling enough to smooth over the picture’s few missteps. By the time the unexpectedly powerful, South Africa-set finale rolls around, Stay Human has certainly confirmed its place as a stirring, refreshingly idealistic piece of work that provides precisely the sort of hopeful outlook so desperately needed in these often grim times.
*** out of ****