The war in Vietnam was understood at a basic level. The Americans were out there to stop the Commies taking over the south - and after that Cambodia, and after that Thailand, and after that... Of course, the reality was entirely different. When the US fled Saigon in a humiliating scramble no one wanted to talk about it and the vets were treated like lepers.

The war in Iraq is not understood at any level. The Americans invaded on a false premise and are now trying to stop Iraqis killing each other, while claiming that every civilian they kill is a terrorist. From the standpoint of a protest singer, it doesn’t have the same intensity of purpose as the rousing rallying chants of the Sixties. “It’s going to be a forgotten war,” says a Harley-driving member of Vets 4 Vets.

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Neil Young’s passion has not waned since the days of the Kent State massacre when four students were shot to death by the National Guard during a peaceful protest at the university. He set up Déjà Vu by hiring veteran war correspondent Mike Cerre and his team to film a Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young reunion tour in 2006, which highlited Young’s album, Living With War. As someone points out, “The average age of the band is 62-and-a-half.”

Unlike similar roadie’s-eye-view docs, the music takes second place to the message, which may be why they named it the Freedom Of Speech tour. “Nobody said we were over-rehearsed,” David Crosby quips, explaining the ragged harmonies of the early concerts. By the end they are entirely together and contacting with kids 40 years younger.

“We want to make the audience feel,” Young says. On screen behind the band are photographs of soldiers killed in Iraq. One of their mothers is watching. Tears run down her cheeks.

What lifts Déjà Vu above the crowd is the raw emotion emanating from the musicians to audiences who are often shocked by the uncompromising nature of their stance - “Right now, it’s the Sixties rebirth” – and Cerre interviews a number who find the anti-Bush rhetoric unpatriotic and not something old hippy rockers should be bothering their pampered egos with.

“I’m a voice in the crowd that’s angry,” Young says. “People have to articulate what people are feeling.” For all its tubbary and thumpage, this is a film that asks questions and plays strong. CSNY may be past their sell-by, but they don’t think so, and what they are singing about is as relevant as America's reputation abroad.

“One year after the tour, 1100 more Americans died in Iraq, more than 100 of them by suicide.”

Reviewed on: 04 Oct 2008
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Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young go back on the road to protest against the continuing loss of life in the war in Iraq.
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Director: Neil Young

Writer: Neil Young, Mike Cerre

Starring: David Crosby, Graham Nash, Stephen Stills, Neil Young, Mike Cerre

Year: 2008

Runtime: 96 minutes

BBFC: 15 - Age Restricted

Country: US


Sundance 2008

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