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The Story of A San Francisco Icon

In the beautiful city of San Francisco, history is never far away from the gleaming city by the bay that has been its modern identity. Yes, tech companies prosper and it is a financial and business hub. But the glories of San Francisco past is still very much in evidence.

Some would say the glory years were the 1950s and 1960s, when San Francisco was the home to the beats and the hippies, and had an international reputation for tolerance and forward thinking. It still has that progressive vibe and one of its stellar citizens, the ever anarchic, ever confrontational poet/philosopher Lawrence Ferlinghetti holds the mantle as "San Francisco's metaphysical mayor."

The San Francisco International Film Festival is hosting the world premiere of a new documentary on this literary lion. FERLINGHETTI, directed by local photog/filmmaker Christopher Felver, is an affectionate and engaging portrait of the poet and his influences on both San Francisco and world literary culture. As co-founder of City Lights, the iconic book store in the bohemian North Beach neighborhood that has embraced literary innovation for over 50 years, Ferlinghetti was always at the forefront of both literary and political revolution.

The film traces his early days, growing up in a single family home (his father had died before his birth), with a troubled mother who was eventually institutionalized. After going to college, he enlisted in World War II and, after the war, spent several years in Paris. Eventually, he and his wife moved to San Francisco, where he taught French, painted and began to write a new kind of poetry. He was one of the founders of City Lights Bookstore, which not only offered books that were unavailable anywhere else, but eventually published its own books of writers such as Jack Kerouac, Neil Cassidy, Gregory Corso, William S. Burroughs and Allen Ginsberg.

It was with Ginsberg's book HOWL that he became involved in a famous censorship trial that was the pre-eminent culture war of the 1950s. His own poetry and increasingly leftish politics were emblems for a city that was a haven for those looking to escape from the mainstream of Eisenhower America. He remains a father figure for the disenfranchised and has supported the early careers of emerging writers, poets, musicians and artists who have made the bookstore a kind of unofficial hq.

Ferlinghetti, still alive and kicking at 90, is an astute observer of the worlds of politics, social activism and literary pretension. In this engaging film, a portrait of an uncompromising artist and a living, breathing American icon is lovingly put on the screen. For more information on the film, visit: www.chrisfelver.com

Sandy Mandelberger, Festival Dailies Editor

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Chatelin Bruno
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