Description from TIFF 2006 catalog by Thom Powers:

John Lennon had a simple idea: “Give Peace a Chance.” In The U.S. vs. John Lennon, directors David Leaf and John Scheinfeld trace the singer~s evolution as an activist and the powerful forces that rose up against him. Interviewing both friends and opponents and drawing upon a treasure trove of archival footage “~ plus an extensive new interview with Yoko Ono Lennon “~ the filmmakers present a man who speaks directly to our own time.

“It seems silly to be in America and not mention Vietnam as if nothing was happening,” Lennon once said during a Beatles interview. Those anti-war sentiments grew when he married Yoko Ono in 1969. The couple held “Bed-In” events in Amsterdam and Montreal to promote peace. Over Christmas, 1969, they took out billboards in New York, Paris, Toronto and other cities that read, “War is Over! If You Want It.” “You~ve got to sell and sell,” Lennon explained, “until the housewife thinks, “~Oh, there~s peace or war. That~s the two products.~ ”

Not everyone was pleased. “My dear boy, you~re living in a never-never land,” a “New York Times” reporter told him. Nixon loyalist G. Gordon Liddy believed Lennon “was being manipulated” by the likes of yippie activist Jerry Rubin and Black Panther Bobby Seale. The conservative U.S. Senator Strom Thurmond wrote a letter to the White House claiming: “[I]f Lennon~s visa is terminated, it would be a strategy counter-measure.”

Thurmond~s initiative led to a Kafkaesque five-year ordeal during which Lennon and Ono lived under constant threat of deportation from the United States. Ono and other confidants of Lennon take us inside his experience of the case. Former FBI agents make clear how seriously they took him. Observers such as Angela Davis, Ron Kovic and Gore Vidal testify to Lennon~s influence on others. In one memorable moment, Nixon~s opponent George McGovern sings a few bars of “Give Peace a Chance.”

“The thing the sixties did was show us the possibility and the responsibility that we all had,” Lennon said. “It wasn~t the answer. It just gave us a glimpse.” This film reawakens his wit, thoughtfulness and optimism for a new generation.

About the directors:
David Leaf was born in New Rochelle, New York and graduated from George Washington University in Washington, D.C. He has directed numerous documentaries for television, including the Grammy-nominated Beautiful Dreamer: Brian Wilson and the Story of SMiLE (co-director, 04). The U.S. vs. John Lennon (co-director, 06) is his most recent film.

John Scheinfeld was born in Milwaukee. He attended Oberlin College and Northwestern University. He is a prolific writer, director and producer of television documentaries, including The Unknown Peter Sellers (co-director, 00) and Ricky Nelson Sings (05) and the documentary feature Who is Harry Nilsson (And Why Is Everybody Talkin~ About Him?) (06). The U.S. vs. John Lennon (co-director, 06) is his most recent film.

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