Bay Area Filmmakers Bring “Howl” Controversy Back to Life

New movie centers on poet Allen Ginsberg's obscenity trial

Telling Pictures

James Franco may be a big movie star who is busy pursuing an Ivy League education, while maintaining a recurring role on a daytime soap opera but the Palo Alto, Calif product still finds time to stay connected to the Bay Area.

After getting his start alongside fellow Bay Area product Linda Cardellini on "Freaks and Geeks,"  Franco put his local upbringing to use to play Harvey Milk's lover Scott Smith in Sean Penn's biopic on the politician in 2008.

Now Franco portrays Bay Area icon Allen Ginsberg in the movie "Howl" about the poet's infamous obscenity trial.

The movie was screened last week at the Sundance Film Festival and "Howl" makes its Bay Area premiere at  the Sundance Cinema’s Kabuki theater in San Francisco this Thursday at 7:30 p.m. with the filmmakers in attendance.

Ginsberg launched a generation when he performed "Howl" in 1955 and the movie centers on the aftermath of that performance, when poet Lawrence Ferlinghetti of City Lights Books published the piece and was later arrested for the poem's perceived obscene nature.

Bay Area filmmakers Rob Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman told the New York Times they may have debuted their movie at the Sundance Film Festival but it was important to them to maintain the poem's connection to the Bay Area.

"The poem was written in San Francisco, it was published here by City Lights, Ginsberg had a lifelong connection to the city and it’s our hometown," the two told the paper.

And if there was any doubt of the filmmakers' attempts to root the movie in the Bay Area, look no further than Los Angeles' hatred towards the movie's star for all the validation needed.

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