Exclusive Interview with Jeffrey Friedman, Director of Howl

By Jason Boog Comment

Howl.jpegNext year, a star-studded cast–James Franco, Alan Alda, Jeff Daniels, Mary-Louise Parker and Paul Rudd–will dramatize the literary life and times of Allen Ginsberg in the biopic, Howl.

After a summer dominated by superhero blockbusters, it seems somewhat quixotic to make movie heroes out of poets and literary critics. The film also faces the daunting task of getting the Internet generation excited about a 50-year-old poem.

Intrigued, GalleyCat caught up with Howl‘s co-director Jeffrey Friedman. In this exclusive interview, the veteran director of the documentary Common Threads: Stories from the Quilt wasn’t worried:

“We’ve been surprised by the number of young people who have told us not only that they are familiar with the poem, but that it means a lot to them. A generation accustomed to being bombarded with random sensational imagery will be able to easily keep up with our animated reinterpretation of the poem–a dreamlike world of madness and monsters, burning oilfields and cosmic orgasms.”

More after the jump…

When asked how censorship affected contemporary publishers, Friedman had a passionate response:

“In the 21st century’s environment of ‘free speech’ and internet blogging, many may think that the issue of censorship has become a thing of the past. However, as our ability to opine and criticize has become easier, government censorship is as bad as it’s been in my memory. We sit in the quagmire of a ghastly misbegotten war, as an imploding military-industrial complex drags our country further into insurmountable debt.

“The current administration has nullified the Geneva Conventions, sanctioned kidnapping and torture, and continues to hold an unknown number of people in secret prisons without due process. Conservative right-wing elements co-opt religion just as the specter of terrorism has co-opted patriotism. We live with apocalyptic environmental dangers carrying the same weight as 1950s atomic bomb anxiety. And the same censorship issues that Ginsberg’s work faced in the 1950s are still very much alive.

“In an effort to conjure morale and keep private its clandestine operations, our government has tried to intimidate and marginalize its critics–and of course this includes the publishing and journalism industry. Fortunately, First Amendment freedom of speech is still respected in principle, but given the opportunity–a declared ‘national emergency,’ for example–I have no doubt the Bush-Cheney administration would jump at the chance to exert greater control over our speech–and implicitly our thoughts.”