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A controversial new film documentary examines the U.S. Government's efforts to silence Lennon's antiwar message, and draws striking parallels to the present.

Movie Preview: The U.S. vs. John Lennon

There has never been a worldwide phenomenon quite like The Beatles. And there has never been a songwriter, musician, social, and political activist quite like John Lennon. Ever since his murder in 1980, Lennon has been remembered in the media primarily for both his music and as a world crusader for peace. It all sounds perfectly innocent and benign.

But what people forget is what a controversial figure Lennon actually was at the time. Today's politicians in particular also have conveniently forgotten just how much of a threat Lennon was viewed as by our government, and the lengths that same government went to in its efforts to silence him.

A certain to be controversial new documentary from Lions Gate Pictures scheduled to hit theatres in September is sure to change all of that. The U.S. vs John Lennon examines Lennon's transformation in the sixties from mop-topped Beatle to iconic social activist viewed as a national threat by those in some of the highest corridors of power.

Lennon has, of course, certainly been the subject of numerous documentaries before. But based on the available pre-release information, this one has the feel of something completely different, and potentially something very powerful.

Where previous Lennon bios have all mentioned the various controversies sparked by his trademark outspokeness — from claiming the Beatles to be bigger than Jesus to posing naked with Yoko Ono for the Two Virgins album cover — The U.S. vs John Lennon zeroes right in on the ramifications of his activism.

While Lennon's legacy today is largely that of a beloved icon, he was equally reviled by many in the sixties because of his outspoken activism against the Vietnam War, and for the causes of peace and equality. Lennon's various crusades not only earned him a spot on Nixon's infamous political enemies list (probably right next to Hanoi Jane), but surveillance by J. Edgar Hoover's FBI.

It's been fairly well-documented that his troubles getting legal passage to this country were directly tied to his political activities as well. This film delves head first into that part of the John Lennon story, focusing specifically on those historical events for the very first time.

If the world has forgotten that powerful men like Richard Nixon and J. Edgar Hoover worked diligently and feverishly to keep Lennon out of this country, this film, at least judging by its trailer (which can be viewed at the film's official website), looks to remove all such cobwebs of memory lapse. At the very least, it confirms that when you piss off those in power, even in a democracy like ours, all bets are off. Things can get dangerous.

Utilizing interviews with both Lennon's closest confidants and even a few of his more noteworthy adversaries, as well as some truly remarkable archival footage, The U.S. vs. John Lennon tells the story of John Lennon for the first time as it actually happened.

Filmmakers David Leaf (America: A Tribute To Heroes), John Scheinfeld (Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of SMiLE), and Arlene Wszalek (Who Is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin' About Him)?) have put together what is sure to be one of the most controversial and talked about pictures this year.

The U.S. vs. John Lennon also draws some very striking parallels between the generationally polarized America of the sixties and the geographically and culturally polarized America of today. Activist musicians of today ranging from Neil Young to The Dixie Chicks might want to bring their notepads along with them to this film.


You can get a ton of information on the The U.S. vs. John Lennon at the film's official website. There is also a particularly hilarious and quite clever mockup of The Drudge Report there featuring all Lennon stories. Check it out at The Grudge Report.

The U.S. vs John Lennon is in theatres this September from Lions Gate pictures.

War is Over If You Want It.

About Glen Boyd

Glen Boyd is the author of Neil Young FAQ, released in May 2012 by Backbeat Books/Hal Leonard Publishing. He is a former BC Music Editor and current contributor, whose work has also appeared in SPIN, Ultimate Classic Rock, The Rocket, The Source and other publications. You can read more of Glen's work at the official Neil Young FAQ site. Follow Glen on Twitter and on Facebook.

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