In the documentary The U.S. vs. John Lennon (which had its world premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival last night) music and politics once again intersect. The film, directed by John Sheinfeld and David Leaf, examines how the influential rock icon was targeted by the U.S. government as a result of his vocal anti-war activities during Vietnam. (In addition to being the victim of creepy CIA-typed profiling — having his phone tapped, being followed — Lennon was nearly deported for a minor pot charge that was filed in the U.K.)
The film uses original footage from the Vietnam war and the protests against it, plus interviews with Yoko Ono, Gore Vidal, Jon Weiner, Bobby Seale, Abbie Hoffman, Jerry Rubin, George McGovern, and Noam Chomsky to good effect. Following the screening, Sheinfeld recounted how he showed a rough cut of the film to Ono, after which she told him, “Of all the documentaries that have been made about John, this is the one he would have loved.”
Ono opened up the musical archives for the film’s soundtrack, which contains 36 Lennon songs. Apple Records also licensed three Beatles songs and two live performances to the filmmakers. The U.S. vs. John Lennon opens in New York and L.A. this Friday, and nationwide later this month.