Forty years ago Jerry Levitan, then fourteen years old, was able to get a highly coveted interview with John Lennon in Toronto, during the “bed-in” phase. It has taken him forty years to turn the reel to reel tape from that interview into something, but it was worth the wait. Jerry said, “I never wanted to do anything cheesy or anything that would diminish John’s message or John’s art. I never wanted to sell it or do a straight documentary. I wanted to do something that meant something to me and that honors John. I didn’t want to rush anything or capitalize on anything.”
Eventually Levitan had the idea to use the material in an artistic way, which led him to seek out new media artist Josh Raskin, who has directed the aptly named “I Met the Walrus”. The film uses Levitan’s interview with John as a soundtrack for a short animated film (which is now Oscar nominated). The animation is simple in style but adds depth in each level of commentary and to all issues discussed. Abstract ideas are visualized brilliantly making Lennon’s ideas come to life in a new way.
We live in a time when someone with John Lennon’s idealism remains revolutionary and rare. We are too jaded for someone like that to come out of our time, yet that is what makes Lennon’s message even more poignant today. The relevance of Lennon’s philosophy and commentary about the world is a reminder of how little we’ve changed as a society. Levitan says, “The world is a more complicated place today than it was then. People are under so much pressure, much more than they were then; so it’s hard for people to take the time and see what leaders are doing in their name. And that is the message John had for me, that it’s up to the people, to change things: they are the establishment.”
When asked about the outcome of his film, Levitan said, “Well, I didn’t do it for a purpose, I had no idea it would reach the level it has reached, I had no idea. I thought it was great when it was done. When it was finished I looked at Josh (Raskin) and said that if this is the one thing that comes out of this, then I’m a happy man. And I’m just so flabbergasted that it’s taken on the life it has. It’s taken on a new purpose. It’s spreading John’s message of peace; and is spreading that in a way that resonates with people today, after all these years.”
I Met the Walrus will make its television premiere on Bravo! during Bravo!FACT Presents on February 29 at 7:30pm ET / 4:30pm PT.
The short was funded with a Bravo!FACT grant.