This Week in New York Insider's Guide to Arts & Culture in New York City Since 2001




Lawrence Ferlinghetti proves to be a man of many hats in refreshing documentary

FERLINGHETTI: A REBIRTH OF WONDER (Christopher Felver, 2009) / HUM BOM! (Christopher Felver, 1999)
Friday, June 5, free, 7:00
Festival continues through June 6

“Poetry should be dissident, and subversive, and an agent for change,” poet, publisher, painter, activist, and military veteran Lawrence Ferlinghetti says in Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder, a refreshing and revealing documentary about the author of A Coney Island of the Mind and owner of the famous City Lights Bookstore in San Francisco. The film is streaming online for free on June 5 at 7:00 as part of Howl!’s Allen Ginsberg Film Festival, which continues through June 6. Director Christopher Felver, who has previously made documentaries on John Cage, Tony Cragg, Donald Judd, and Cecil Taylor, has compiled ten years of interviews with Ferlinghetti, including trips to Italy, where the poet’s father was born; France, where the aunt who raised him was from; and his childhood home in New York.

Among those sharing their opinions of the charming and friendly Ferlinghetti, who turned 101 in March, are fellow poets Michael McClure, Gary Snyder, Anne Waldman, and Billy Collins as well as such other artistic figures as David Amram, Dave Eggers, Dennis Hopper, and Jean-Jacques Lebel, all of whom have only the most positive things to say about the film’s subject. Despite his radicalism and calls for social and political change around the world, Ferlinghetti is nearly always wearing a smile, clearly enjoying the long life he’s leading. He discusses his friendships with Kenneth Rexroth, Shakespeare & Co. founder George Whitman, and the Beats, primarily Jack Kerouac and Allen Ginsberg, focusing at one point on the censorship trial involving his publication of Ginsberg’s Howl, which turned into a critical battle over First Amendment rights. Counterculture guru Ferlinghetti is shown performing in a studio with Amram, accepting an award from the city of San Francisco, discussing his family, working on his abstract paintings, and wearing silly hats. He is completely at ease with who he is and where he came from, as well as where he’s going, still fighting the power as valiantly as ever, not just relaxing on his many laurels. Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder is also likely to make viewers think twice about their own lives, realizing there’s a great big world out there, and it is possible for each and every person to make a difference, especially during these challenging times.

A Rebirth of Wonder will be shown along with Felver’s 1999 short, Hum Bom!, featuring Ginsberg and Amram, as well as video of the 2018 Howl Gallery party. The celebration concludes June 6 at 7:00 with Colin Still’s 1997 doc No More to Say and Nothing to Weep For: An Elegy for Allen Ginsberg, Felver’s video for Sonic Youth’s “Making the Nature Scene,” and video of the 2019 Howl Gallery party.

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