The U.S. vs. John Lennon

David Leaf’s documentary shows the giant steps the feds took against a cultural icon

Elvis Presley. Jimi Hendrix. Janis Joplin. It’s a well-known part of rock star lore that the FBI had files on all the big names of the ‘60s, so you might chalk up J. Edgar Hoover’s stack of binders on John Lennon to hippie-era paranoia. Think again, argues filmmaker David Leaf in the 2006 film The U.S. vs. John Lennon, which explores the great lengths the feds went to in their efforts to silence the one-time Beatle. Lennon had helped shape popular culture beyond recognition and, after meeting Yoko Ono and befriending Black Panthers and peace activists, it seemed like he could do the same to society as a whole.

An entertainer with primetime TV appeal and an icon revered by the people who disrupted the 1968 Democratic National Convention, he was, according to the film’s tagline, a “musician, humanitarian [and] national threat.” Sen. Strom Thurmond and Hoover himself tried to use a small marijuana conviction in the UK to deport Lennon and kept close surveillance on him. The documentary provides fascinating context to “Give Peace a Chance,” “Imagine” and other then-edgy songs long ago homogenized into our culture. (It also explains the small smirk on Lennon’s face in that famous photo of him in the “New York City” T-shirt.) 1 p.m. Houston Community College – Town & Country Campus, 1060 West Sam Houston Parkway North. For information, call 713-718-5642 or visit www.nwc.hccs.edu/reel. Free.
Wed., March 19, 1 p.m., 2008

 
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