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Werc Werk Works ‘Howl’ for Experimental Ginsberg Biopic

Werc Werk Works are backing some “out there” filmmakers in Todd Solondz (Forgiveness) and Bela Tarr’s rumoured last feature film (The Turin Horse), and now they are backing an “out there” project in Rob Esptein (The Times of Harvey Milk) and Jeffrey Friedman’s Howl.

New kids on the block Werc Werk Works are backing some “out there” filmmakers in Todd Solondz (Forgiveness) and Bela Tarr‘s rumoured last feature film (The Turin Horse), and now they are backing an “out there” project in Rob Esptein (The Times of Harvey Milk) and Jeffrey Friedman’s Howl. The project that will have benefited from Sundance labs and IFP’s No Borders International Co-Production Market before premiering sometime next year – probably during the 2010 Sundance Film Festival. Photography begins March 16th in NYC. This will be Esptein’s and Friedman’s fiction film debut. 

Based on Allen Ginsberg’s beatnik book of poetry Howl, this focuses on the obscenity trial launched to censor Ginsberg’s groundbreaking book-length poem. Among the real-life characters featured in the film are prosecuting attorney Ralph McIntosh (David Strathairn), Judge Clayton Horn (Alan Alda), prosecution witness Professor David Kirk (Jeff Daniels), radio personality and prosecution witness Gail Potter (M-L Parker) and literary critic and defence witness Luther Nichols (Paul Rudd). James Franco plays the title role.

Some scenes in the film will be animated — adding fantasy elements to the beatnik poems, and this combined with courtroom scenes immediately makes me cringe that we might see something like the doc Chicago 10 — but I imagine since it focuses on Ginsberg’s earlier years (everything before 57′) and not necessarily the trial, that the courtroom sequences will only be a reference point for the narrative.

Elizabeth Redleaf and Christine Walker produce. Gus Van Sant serves as Executive Producer with Redleaf.

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Eric Lavallée is the founder, CEO, editor-in-chief, film journalist, and critic at IONCINEMA.com, established in 2000. A regular at Sundance, Cannes, and Venice, Eric holds a BFA in film studies from the Mel Hoppenheim School of Cinema. In 2013, he served on the narrative competition jury at the SXSW Film Festival. He was an associate producer on Mark Jackson’s "This Teacher" (2018 LA Film Festival, 2018 BFI London). In 2022, he was a New Flesh Juror for Best First Feature at the Fantasia International Film Festival. Current top films for 2023 include The Zone of Interest (Glazer), Inside the Yellow Cocoon Shell (Pham Thien An), Totem (Lila Avilés), La Chimera (Alice Rohrwacher), All Dirt Roads Taste of Salt (Raven Jackson).

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