The US vs John Lennon
This incisive and engrossing documentary is both a portrait of the former Beatle as political activist and a slice of secret history from America’s recent past. It follows its subject from 1966-76, the heady years during which Lennon left The Beatles, moved to America with Yoko Ono, and became the world’s most popular musician and an activist advocating global peace. The Nixon administration didn’t take kindly to the latter, and in the early 1970s repeatedly attempted to deny the mouthy scouser a green card and throw him out of the country.
Using extensive archive footage of Lennon (including the famous Bed Peace interviews) as well as around 40 of his songs, co-directors David Leaf and John Scheinfeld eschew narration and instead let the man himself tell his own story. That material, made available by Yoko Ono, is supplemented with a series of interviews covering the whole spectrum of opinion from political left to right and includes Ono herself, Vietnam veteran Ron Kovic, Black Panther co-founder Bobby Seale, Nixon administrator G Gordon Liddy, FBI agent John Ryan and commentators such as Walter Kronkite, Carl Bernstein and Gore Vidal.
Comparisons between the Nixon administration’s attempts to silence Lennon and the Bush junta doing likewise with critics of the Iraq war such as The Dixie Chicks are entirely intentional. Which makes this film very timely indeed.