Jonathan Demme - Director Jonathan Demme Takes Neil Young Fans Back To Kent State Massacre In New Film
Moviemaker Jonathan Demme tracked down the families of the students who lost their lives in the infamous 1970 Kent State massacre to ask permission to use photos of the victims of the clash between peace protesters and police for new musical documentary Neil Young Journeys.
The Silence of the Lambs director thought it would be poignant to flash the images of the four unarmed college students, who were killed by members of the Ohio National Guard during a protest against the American invasion of Cambodia, onscreen during rocker Young's tribute track, Ohio.
Demme tells WENN, "I felt that we've heard the song Ohio so many times and here's Neil up there today singing his heart out. The version we have in the film is someone enraged and heartbroken. It's not the kind of beautiful Crosby, Stills, Nash & Young version that we hear at the shopping mall.
"I thought, 'Who were these people?' Viewers have to wonder, 'What's he talking about? He doesn't mention anything about Kent State, just four dead in Ohio, soldiers are cutting us down.' It just made sense to me to honour the four victims and we started to find what kind of archive footage there might be.
"We were able to take the viewers back to the campus that day. I'm sure 75 per cent of the audience have never seen that footage, they probably don't know the name of the college and they certainly don't know there were two young women and two young men who got shot down that day.
"We tracked down the families and called them and it was imperative to have their blessing. They were grateful we showed their photos because that song means a lot to them."
And the filmmaker hopes his new Neil Young documentary and the light it shines on the dark day in Ohio's history may prevent another looming tragedy.
He adds, "I thought, in these contentious times - with everything that's going on in the country and around the world - how close are we to shooting our students again? I feel there's a cautionary dimension to presenting the song today that I think is valuable."