Wednesday, February 9, 2011

Jerry Aronson, Johanna Demetrakas and Alex Gibney

All of this talk about Howl (and rightly so) but let us not forget, arguably, the film on Allen, Jerry Aronson's 1994 award-winning documentary, The Life and Times of Allen Ginsberg just re-issued a few years back as a deluxe two-disc set that includes loads of goodies, interviews, with the likes of Andy Warhol, Yoko Ono, Bono, rare footage, out-takes etc., 6 hours of newly updated and previously-unseen footage. Here's a recent interview with Jerry talking about the making of that film, along with with some curious insights into how he finally decided on the film's format. It's bookended by Allen reading the poem "Song" and the complete "Howl" part 1. The interview was conducted and filmed by the National Gallery of Art in Washington, DC, on the occasion of their screening of the film at the Beat Memories photo-exhibit last summer.



Crazy Wisdom, Johanna Demetrakas’ documentary on Chogyam Trungpa, is finally out. It just had its world premiere this past weekend at the Santa Barbara Film Festival. There will be an encore “best of fest” screening there (at the Riviera Theater) on Sunday Feb 13. On Friday February 18, the film will have a screening as part of the Boulder film festival.


[Discussion of Tibetan Buddhism at Allen Ginsberg's apartement, Boulder Colorado, August, 1976. (left to right) Jerome Rothenberg, Anne Waldman, Peter Orlovsky, Allen Ginsberg, Diane Di Prima, Chogyam Trungpa, student, William Burroughs. c. Allen De Loach.]

Here’s Johanna Demetrakas on the genesis of the film:

"It took a long time to put this film together. In 1983, Chogyam Trungpa asked me to make a Shambhala film. The teachings of Shambhala, the path, were still very new and I wasn't sure what that meant. What would a Shambhala film be about? certain principles? A way of life? And for several years after Chogyam Trungpa's death, nothing happened, and I didn't think about that conversation.

In maybe the early nineties I started tracing my own past, and took up the idea again. In '95 I got initial approval from Trungpa's son and Shambhala heir, Sakyong Mipham to make a film about his father. I started pulling footage from my archives; my ex-husband Baird Bryant and I had shot several films with Trungpa. And in '02 I began to record some of the interviews that appear in the film. Then things fell apart, as they often do in the long life of a documentary; it took two more years just to get full formal approval. Now, here we are in 2011 and the film is finally out.

My goal has been to use the ideas, the questions, the moments in the film to create an open mindedness in the viewer about Trungpa, to film without bias and let him confront the world directly. And let the audience have their own journey. Making a documentary is like starting a painting with a blank canvas. Documentaries are wide open, and a filmmaker learns to sense when one is unfolding correctly. This film is a portrait, and I've tried not to impose my own ideas on it, or on the viewer."

A further film interview with Johanna Demetrakas is available here and a print interview here. The trailer (including an interesting brief appearance by Allen, asking a question about Buddhism and rock music) can be viewed here.

Crazy Wisdom Trailer from Matthew Mecer on Vimeo.

Documentarians on documentary. Finally, Alex Gibney’s documentary film Magic Trip, about Ken Kesey and the Merry Pranksters, which we reported on a couple of weeks ago, is profiled with a 15 minute video interview with Gibney via the Indiewire website here.

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