(INSPIRED BY 1960’s “HUNGER GAMES-LIKE” FILM’S DIRECTOR)
By Alan L. Chrisman
A letter from British director, Peter Watkins, first known for his controversial anti-nuclear war 1965 docudrama, War Games, was the catalyst for John Lennon and Yoko Ono to start their Bed Peace and War is Over (If you want it)campaigns in 1969. John said a letter from the film’s director had first challenged them. The letter said: ‘People in your position have a responsibility to use the media for world peace’. And we sat on the letter for about three weeks thinking, ‘Well, we’re doing our best, all you need is love, man’. That letter just sort of sparked it all off. It was like getting your induction papers for peace.”
John and Yoko staged their Bed-ins for peace, originally in Amsterdam, and famously later in Montreal, Canada, for a week in May.’69 and on June 1st recorded in their hotel room with several attendees, their peace anthem, “Give Peace a Chance”.
On Dec. 1, 1971 they released their single, “Happy Xmas (War is Over)” ,and posted billboards in major cities of around the world. The song has now become a timeless holiday favorite. Yoko has announced that she has re-launched the “War is Over” Campaign and poster and is asking fans to re-send the poster as holiday cards. Also she’d like people to join together in singing , “Imagine”, for this coming New Years.
But it was that letter by Watkins and his film, War Games, which had been banned by the BBC for its realistic depictions of nuclear war, during the Vietnam War, which had been the impetus for John and Yoko to come up with their concepts to draw the world’s attentions about war and violence.
Watkins also made another thought proving film, PRIVILEGE in 1967. It’s the story of a rock star who becomes so popular that he becomes controlled by the government and the Church to do their bidding. It stars a real pop star of the time, Paul Jones of British band, Manfred Mann, as the main character, Steven Shorter. The female lead was played by,”Face of the 60’s”, supermodel, Jean Shrimpton. The film raises some very intriguing questions about pop music and culture and mass media’s effect on society. It was very prophetic in its awareness. At that time, mass pop music was in its beginnings and didn’t have the power that we have now come to take for granted, but the film foretold what was about to happen in 60’s and which continues to this day. As I said, the powers that be, in the film, soon see the commercial (and political) potential and how they can manipulate the population and situation. It’s a satire and cautionary statement at the same time, a mixture of Orwell’s 1984, and documentary of pop culture’s and media’s growing domination. It’s actually, partly influenced by a documentary on 50’s pop idol and his screaming fans, Canadian-born, Paul Anka (“Diana”, “Puppy Love” and who wrote “My Way” for Frank Sinatra), called Lonely Boy.
It’s also interesting because, while touring America in 1965, John Lennon himself, had stirred up controversy, when he was quoted as saying, “We’re more popular than Jesus Christ”. DJ’s and some fans, mainly in the conservative U.S. South, had reacted by condemning him and holding “Burn Beatles’ records” rallies. Lennon, under pressure, had to somewhat apologize for his remarks, even though he was just expressing his own experience as part of a massively popular cultural phenomenon. Of course, what he said was a very perceptive comment on his own experience and observation. There’s a scene in the film, Privilege, where, the singer, Steve Shorter, has to perform in stadiums and almost like a fundamentalist faith-healer touch and “cure” audience members with disabilities and afflictions. Lennon said, at Beatles’ concerts, they would place the disabled in wheelchairs at the front and sometimes, on stage in those big stadiums, most all the Beatles themselves could see from the stage, were these unfortunate people and after the concert, they would be brought backstage to meet the band. On those gruelling tours, they were the few fans they often got to see up close. There’s a scene in Privilege, where Paul Jones as rock star, sings the song,” SET ME FREE”, from behind jail bars erected on stage, as the audience screams hysterically. Patti Smith would later record the song for her album, Easter, in 1978, and that scene from the movie, Privilege, still says a lot about the way we, perhaps, today with our pervasive mass media, even more, worship pop celebrity. Privilege, the 1967 film, was ahead of its time, long before current films like the Hunger Games and covered of these same themes, and it’s recommended you check it out.
Lennon became quite aware of the strange circumstances pop idols often found themselves in, with all the adoration and mass hysteria. As he sang later “Christ, the way things are going they’re going to crucify me”. And sadly, ironically, as we all know, he was killed by a deranged fan on Dec. 8, 1980. George Harrison had also been stabbed over 40 times by an intruder in his home just a couple years, before, which didn’t help his health certainly, and he would pass away of cancer on Nov. 29, 2001. Some of the issues raised in Watkins’ films, Privilege, and War Games, were to have influence on future events and John and Yoko’s efforts for peace, which Yoko is still asking us to carry on, in John’s name and ideals. Privilege, the 1967 film, was ahead of its time, long before current films like The Hunger Games covered some of these same themes, and it’s recommended you check it out.
See below trailer for 1967 film, Privilege:
See below John Lennon talking common sense about peace and violence:
Link to YOKO ONO’S WEBSITE, where you can download and send updated “WAR IS OVER” POSTERS: Dear Friends
Go to http://imaginepeace.com/warisover/
Download, print & display these multilingual 'WAR IS OVER!' posters in your window, school, workplace, car and elsewhere.
Post them on your Social Media feeds and use the hashtag #WARISOVER.
Send them as postcards to your friends.
We say it in so many ways, but we are one.
I love you! YOKO.