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Director: Christopher Felver, David Amram, Amiri Baraka, Erik Bauersfeld

Cast: Christopher Felver, David Amram, Amiri Baraka, Erik Bauersfeld

Lawrence Ferlinghetti is one of America's best known and most respected poets, a major figure of the Beat poetry scene of the 1950s and the proprietor of City Lights Books, a bookstore and publishing house that has distributed important works from Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac,


Lawrence Ferlinghetti is one of America's best known and most respected poets, a major figure of the Beat poetry scene of the 1950s and the proprietor of City Lights Books, a bookstore and publishing house that has distributed important works from Allen Ginsberg, Jack Kerouac, Gregory Corso, William S. Burroughs, Charles Bukowski and many more. Raised by an immigrant couple, Ferlinghetti began writing shortly before he went into the Navy during World War II; his company was sent to Nagasaki just weeks after the atomic bombing of Japan, an experience that he says made him "an instant pacifist." When he returned, Ferlinghetti became a political activist who believed that art and literature could help reshape society. Through his own poetry (including the collection A Coney Island Of The Mind, which went on to sell more than a million copies) and his work with other activist writers, Ferlinghetti has represented the heart, soul and conscience of American literature for well over six decades. Filmmaker Christopher Felver offers a homage to the writer's life and work in the documentary Ferlinghetti, which includes interviews with Michael McClure, Dave Eggers, Dennis Hopper, Anne Waldman, Gary Snyder and more. Ferlinghetti received its world premiere at the 2009 San Francisco International Film Festival.

Editorial Reviews

All Movie Guide - Mark Deming
In his book on the Beat writers of the 1950s and '60s, Harvey Pekar wrote, "Poetry and Lawrence Ferlinghetti have done very well for each other." Ferlinghetti was, with the exception of Allen Ginsberg, the most celebrated figure to rise from the Beat poetry community, but while he managed to sell more than a million copies of his book A Coney Island of the Mind (an unheard of figure for a poetry collection), his love of the form didn't merely benefit himself. Ferlinghetti was a tireless champion of other writers he admired; he opened one of America's most celebrated bookstores, San Francisco's City Lights Books, to promote the sort of literature other shops weren't willing to carry. Ferlinghetti then went a step further, creating a publishing house to put the work of important writers and poets in print. Ferlinghetti's City Lights Publishing issued Ginsberg's first book, Howl and Other Poems, in 1956, and when the work was hit with an obscenity suit, Ferlinghetti partnered with the American Civil Liberties Union to defend the book in court. Judge Clayton Horn declared that Howl was not obscene as it possessed literary merit and redeeming social importance, and the case opened the doors for the free publication of many watershed literary works. All of this points to the fact that Lawrence Ferlinghetti is a genuinely important figure in 20th century American culture, but one thing that becomes clear early on in Christopher Felver's documentary Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder (aka Ferlinghetti) is that he is a man who stubbornly refuses to take himself seriously. In Ferlinghetti's world, poetry is important, art is important, free expression is important, global politics are important, and the environment is important. Ferlinghetti himself, however, is a "Zen fool," and happily so. In the film, he cites Charlie Chaplin as one of his heroes and a potent source of inspiration, and one can see in his attitude a bit of the Little Tramp, a man whose rumpled dignity doesn't disguise his desire to make mischief and give those who deserve it a kick in the pants. Except where Chaplin never spoke, Ferlinghetti uses his words with the same playful élan Chaplin used with his body. Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder also makes it clear that the poet's buoyant approach to life and creation did not come easily. Ferlinghetti's father died before he was born, his mother fell into a severe post-partum depression that led her to give up her son, and he was left with an aunt who was forced to place him with an orphanage for a while. The aunt later found work as a domestic with a wealthy family, and they took young Lawrence under their wing, supporting him and providing him with an excellent education. While Ferlinghetti doesn't dwell much on his childhood (which he jokes is like "something out of Dickens"), there is a sequence where he visits Italy, and after tracking down the house where his father once lived, becomes frustrated when he can't go inside. Glimmers of the sadness and disappointment of his childhood are visible in his face. But a more powerful moment comes when Ferlinghetti talks about his experiences in the Army during World War II, particularly the day his company visited Nagasaki shortly after the atomic bomb had been dropped on the Japanese city. Ferlinghetti says the experience made him "an instant pacifist," and the poet's activist streak comes through very strongly in this film. Ferlinghetti, a self-proclaimed anarchist, never seems more serious and engaged than when he talks about issues of social justice, and near the end of the film, he's shown tending to his "public blog," placing hand-painted signs that express his progressive beliefs in the windows of City Lights. As compelling as Ferlinghetti's story may be and as passionate as he is in his beliefs, what really makes Christopher Felver's film something to watch is Ferlinghetti himself. The poet is a great and enthusiastic storyteller, whether he's talking about painting, anarchy, or Jack Kerouac, and Felver is smart enough to let the man's words carry the film, even when his friends and admirers chime in as well. Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder is as breezy and entertaining as the man it celebrates, and just as the poet is in love with the world around him, the film can't hide its admiration for someone who has done so much and still feels compelled to do more each day, spreading some joy as he goes along.

Product Details

Release Date:
Original Release:
First Run Features
[Wide Screen]
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Special Features

Ferlinghetti Reads His Poem The History of the Airplane

Related Subjects

Cast & Crew

Performance Credits
David Amram Participant
Amiri Baraka Participant
Erik Bauersfeld Participant
Billy Collins Participant
Giada Diano Participant
Bob Dylan Participant
Dave Eggers Participant
Lawrence Ferlinghetti Participant
Lorenzo Ferlinghetti Participant
Allen Ginsberg Actor
Herbert Gold Participant
Jack Hirschman Participant
Dennis Hopper Actor
Jean-Jacques Lebel Participant
Michael McClure Participant
David Meltzer Participant
Bill Morgan Participant
Kenneth Rexroth Actor
Robert Scheer Participant
Gary Snyder Participant
Anne Waldman Participant
George Whitman Participant
Sylvia Whitman Participant

Technical Credits
Christopher Felver Director,Cinematographer,Producer
Robert Berman Associate Producer
Rick DePofi Score Composer
Steve Kotton Associate Producer
Brett Marty Editor
Bruce Ricker Associate Producer

Scene Index

Disc #1 -- Ferlinghetti: A Rebirth of Wonder
1. Chapter 1 [5:00]
2. Chapter 2 [4:59]
3. Chapter 3 [5:00]
4. Chapter 4 [4:59]
5. Chapter 5 [5:00]
6. Chapter 6 [4:59]
7. Chapter 7 [4:59]
8. Chapter 8 [5:00]
9. Chapter 9 [4:59]
10. Chapter 10 [4:59]
11. Chapter 11 [5:00]
12. Chapter 12 [4:59]
13. Chapter 13 [5:00]
14. Chapter 14 [4:59]
15. Chapter 15 [5:00]
16. Chapter 16 [4:09]


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