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review added: 1/22/03

John & Yoko's Year of Peace
2002 (2000) - CBC Home Video (Image Entertainment)

review by Matt Rowe of The Digital Bits

John & Yoko's Year of Peace Program Rating: B+

Disc Ratings (Video/Audio/Extras): C/B/F

Specs and Features

52 mins, NR, full frame (1.33:1), single-sided, single-layered, Amaray keep case packaging, film themed menu screens, scene access (15 chapters), languages: English (DD 2.0 mono), subtitles: none

"I believe sincerely that as soon as people want peace in their world, they will have it." - John Lennon

For those of us who lived during the tumultuous time of the 60s, what we remember most of all are the concerted and concentrated efforts of a diverse grouping of organizations and people. We also remember the fallout of those efforts; misunderstood attempts of two fronts working toward correction of perceived wrongdoings. What inevitably sprang forth from this was a division of the same side - one that never healed.

John Lennon played a large role, not necessarily crucial but certainly a cautious one from the standpoint of the U.S. Government, in that Lennon was immensely popular and, more importantly, had the ear of the disenfranchised younger generation - the clear-cut opposition of the Vietnam War. This didn't go unnoticed by either Lennon or the government. Lennon recognized his duty as the spokesman of the disinherited youth of the world. His ideas for achieving peace agreed with many, but differed from the path chosen by most - the path of irony that led the peaceniks, more often than not, down the bloodiest of trails.

It could be said that Lennon desired peace to a fault. His intentions were noble but his methods were highly unorthodox. He had his hand in many efforts, but the most infamous of them was 1969's Montreal Bed In for Peace. What some would call a ridiculous publicity stunt became a touchstone for a generation, and will always be remembered for its endearing effort to jumpstart a fresh concept of peace.

This seeding for peace from the unrest that was escalating and spreading, virus-like, amongst the pop culture of the late 60s and very early 70s, was a genuine gift from John and Yoko. The event was a silly gift, to be sure, but it was one that was delivered in the hopes that the after effect would be one of a stitching together of the distraught. It was an act that could be recognized by the masses as a visual show of to how simply peace could be achieved, if we wanted it.

Image Entertainment's John & Yoko's Year of Peace delivers a 52-minute mix of actual footage, interviews, remembrances, a tapestry of images and historical capture. The film explores the disturbances of 1969, with frightening film clips of hatred and stark depictions of its aftermath. The purpose is to contrast the devastation of unrest with the purposeful acts of love, derived from the Beatle mantra, All You Need is Love. Simple as that.

The message that John Lennon and Yoko Ono sought to send out had a mixture of effects. The event itself brought forth a circus-like atmosphere that had its share of anger. Conservative cartoonist Al Capp spat with intensity at the intent of the Lennons. Capp delivered insults at Yoko with the intention of disrupting the entire proceeding by provocation. But Lennon smartly saw through the ruse and maintained the integrity of his actions.

One of the greatest products that emanated from the bed in was the anthemic (All We Are Saying Is) Give Peace a Chance. That song went on to represent the world in a multitude of situations, including the recent 9/11 event. But the film covers more than just the Bed In. During the course of 1969, John and Yoko visited other locales to propagate their cause. John's belief in the life changing effects of his actions led him to go full steam during this time. He came to Ottawa, Canada in the hopes of meet Prime Minister Trudeau, to Toronto to help an ailing concert festival (he promising to fill the place to the brim with people, only to back out due to a lack of money). Eventually, Lennon felt a need to move forward without the vehicle of the Beatles to carry him. The rest, as we say, is history.

This documentary showcases a turning-point event in our time that extends beyond Lennon's fame. Lennon is not only representative of the Beatles in many ways, but is equally representative of peace in many forms. When the U.S. was brutally attacked on 9/11, Lennon was as important to the concept of peace as ever, never mind that he was no longer alive to orchestrate it himself. Regardless, his spirit and beliefs stand taller and stronger than the WTC buildings that fell.

The documentary itself is a conglomeration of grainy, but well preserved, black and white film footage, interspersed with color clips of current interviews. It therefore cannot be judged on its picture quality but, rather, on its celebrated and important content. The sound is a crisp and clear Dolby Digital 2.0 mono, which again is acceptable for its content. Besides, the only music that you get here is parts of Give Peace a Chance.

In fact, the only thing wrong with this disc is the erroneous listing of names on the back photo. Al Capp is incorrectly listed, while Rabbi Abraham Feinberg was the actual individual with John and Yoko in the photo.

There are no extras on this disc. You get the documentary and scene selection. The producers simply set out to document this eventful year in John Lennon's life and they did just that. While it would have been nice to have more visual candy, we actually get a timeless examination of the era's hero of peace. That is, I think, bigger than any special edition that we would have gotten.

This review is dedicated to John Lennon: October 9th, 1940 - December 8th, 1980

Matt Rowe
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