When Bob Rosenthal, executor of Allen Ginsberg’s estate, first approached filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman in 2005, asking them to do the seemingly impossible – adapt Ginsberg’s 1956 epic poem Howl for a movie – they immediately accepted his challenge. But how to do it?
“There was no way we were going to make the 50th anniversary, but we made the 55th,” says Friedman, 59. He and Epstein, an Oscar-winner for 1984’s The Times of Harvey Milk, had previously directed The Celluloid Closet, a 1995 documentary chronicling the history of gays in cinema.
The second Oakland Underground Film Festival kicks off tonight at the historic Grand Lake Theater with South by Southwest Film Festival favorite Thunder Soul, about the charismatic band leader who turned an inner-city Houston high school's jazz band into a powerful funk outfit, and American Grindhouse, a revealing documentary about cheerfully trashy exploitation cinema. Elsewhere:
Oscar-winning documentarians Rob Epstein (The Times of Harvey Milk) and Jeffrey Friedman (Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt) celebrate the life and poetry of Allen Ginsberg with their most audacious undertaking to date: Howl, a rousing, almost hallucinatory cinematic interpretation of the author's most famous work and an effective re-enactment of the 1957 obscenity trial, held in San Francisco, that made it famous.