Uncovering Curiosities: Neil Young’s CSNY/Déjà Vu

CSNY/Déjà Vu is a 2008 documentary directed by Neil Young (under the pseudonym Bernard Shakey). It’s an exceptional piece of filmmaking which is not only about the war in Iraq (which was raging at the time) and the then political climate, but it’s also a piece about generational values.

Those watching the film hoping to see a straight forward concert film will be severely disappointed. CSNY/Déjà Vu is a protest film against the war in Iraq, it compares the events to the Vietnam war (when the group were in their musical and political peak). What Young has produced is a documentary that puts the work of supposed documentary film-makers like Michael Moore to shame, by highlighting a message, but never going for any cheap emotional tricks.

Crosby, Stills, Nash and Young were politically charged in the 1960s and it would be easy for these ageing rock stars to sit back and let a younger generation of rockers fight lead a new anti-war movement. However, it becomes apparent when watching CSNY/Déjà Vu that nobody has the passion of the group, and that the youth of today aren’t as politically charged as their parents (or grandparents).

What makes Déjà Vu so watchable is that the film offers an insight into not only the viewpoint of the band – but also that of their audience; an audience that has a split opinion of the group and their music. Some audience members interviewed discuss how they love the group’s music, but that they hate the political message that is so boldly thrust on them. The highlight of the film must surely be when the group perform “Let’s Impeach The President” during a concert in middle America. Half the audience cheer and sing along, while the remainder charge-out only to be interviewed by the film’s waiting cameras. The strange sight and sound of a middle-aged, middle-classed, middle-American wife hurling abuse at the group must surely be seen to be believed!

A thought provoking film that goes to show that the older generation do seem to care more, as young people today don’t realise the importance of making a strong, activist political stand.