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Directed by
Bernard Shakey
Produced by
L. A. Johnson & Mike Cerre
Written by
Released by
Roadside Attractions/Lionsgate/Shangri-La Entertainment
USA. 93 min. Rated R
Mike Cerre, David Crosby, Steven Stills, Graham Nash & Neil Young

Decoding the title of CSNY: Déjá Vu says a lot about a film that insists there is no generation gap today in politics or in music, while reassuring baby boomers they’re still relevant in popular culture.

Since their shaky debut at Woodstock and then in their first, iconic melodic 1970 album Déjá Vu, the American super-group rock band of David Crosby, Steven Stills, Graham Nash, and Neil Young have been through a lot of personal and inter-group turmoil.  And it shows.  (Jonathan Demme’s Heart of Gold was a filmed concert of Young’s introspective take on aging.) As in Martin Scorsese’s Shine a Light film of a Rolling Stones concert, there are frequent performance flashbacks and interview clips of the members in full period regalia and youthful bravura. But director Young (using his pseudonym Bernard Shakey) inserts them here not for a touch of nostalgia, but to demonstrate how their 2006 Freedom of Speech Tour is consistent with their past.

Young was passionately inspired by a photograph of seriously wounded returning soldiers from Iraq to write an album’s worth of anti-war songs.  He recorded Living With War quickly with his touring band, added a 100-voice choir a week later, and then offered it free online.  He expanded it with an “LWW Network” at his website,, with streaming videos of the recording of the album and news-like documentaries.  Much of the site’s footage, which was also released on an accompanying DVD in the reissue of the CD, is seamlessly edited in here with the tour performances (some of the images are projected behind the performers on stage). Young’s site also posted original videos and related protest songs sent from soldiers, veterans and their families. 

One of the talented new songwriters who posted, Marine Josh Hisle, who gets to perform his song with Young, had also crossed paths with ABC News correspondent Mike Cerre when he was embedded with the troops.  Young asked Cerre along to be the objective eyes and ears on the road. (When he called his family to say his next assignment was to be embedded on a rock tour, they naturally misheard that he was doing another tour in Iraq.) 

In his pretentious narration, Cerre tries mightily to find controversy among the attendees about music vs. politics. Though the song “Let’s Impeach the President” got most of the advance publicity (a TV interview with Stephen Colbert is included here), evidently folks in Atlanta hadn’t heard it. Cerre finally hits pay dirt there with some disgusted customers walking out. He barely discusses the equally interesting issues of $200 concert tickets, the challenges of playing new songs vs. the old familiar hits (though a surprising number of folks know the new material), and how the younger people, seemingly one-third of the audiences, discovered the band. 

While there are several references to the Dixie Chicks’ controversy, that story line is more amorphous here than in Barbara Kopple and Cecilia Peck’s Shut Up & Sing, maybe because of this band’s political history and their heavy emphasis on supporting the troops, in songs and with a yellow ribbon bedecking a huge microphone on stage. (There’s also a funny reference to CSNY as the new version of Tony Orlando & Dawn, who originally popularized that image.) 

The performers insist that the music is what matters, although it is almost upstaged by the onslaught of images that only occasionally slow down for touching moments with veterans and their families. The film follows only a few songs from start to finish (a soundtrack CD is available).  But the combination of the music with the performers’ dedication ultimately makes this much more moving than just a concert souvenir. Nora Lee Mandel
Jully 25, 2008



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