HOWL (image 1)

I saw the best minds of my generation destroyed by madness, starving hysterical naked...

Allen Ginsberg

Screened as part of NZIFF 2010

HOWL 2009

Directed by Rob Epstein, Jeffrey Friedman

James Franco is uncannily right as young beat poet Allen Ginsberg in this film about his epochal 1957 poem. “It’s a heady flight into not just a particular poem but into the act of creativity itself.” — Hollywood Reporter

USA In English
90 minutes Colour and B&W

Directors, Screenplay


Elizabeth Redleaf
Christine Kunewa Walker
Rob Epstein
Jeffrey Friedman


Edward Lachman


Jake Pushinsky

Production designer

Thérèse DePrez


Carter Burwell


James Franco (Allen Ginsberg)
Todd Rotondi (Jack Kerouac)
Jon Prescott (Neal Cassady)
Aaron Tveit (Peter Orlovsky)
David Strathairn (Ralph McIntosh)
Jon Hamm (Jake Ehrlich)
Andrew Rogers (Lawrence Ferlinghetti)
Bob Balaban (Judge Clayton Horn)
Mary-Louise Parker (Gail Potter)
Heather Klar (Jack’s girlfriend)
Kadance Frank (Allen’s girlfriend)
Treat Williams (Mark Schorer)
Joe Toronto (sailor)
Johary Ramos (hustler)
Nancy Spence (Neal’s girlfriend)
Alessandro Nivola (Luther Nichols)
Jeff Daniels (David Kirk)
Allen Ginsberg (himself)


Sundance, Berlin 2010


In San Francisco in 1957 Allen Ginsberg’s epochal (and enduring) poem “Howl” was put on trial for obscenity. Ron Epstein and Jeffrey Friedman (The Life and Times of Harvey Milk) have made an intelligent, impassioned, multi-layered film about the trial, the poem and the poet as harbingers of social revolution in America. James Franco is uncannily right as the young Ginsberg. The film is built around his marvellous reading of the poem, seemingly unrehearsed, buoyed by an enthusiastic audience and the incantatory scramble of the poet’s words. Re-enacted scenes from the trial succinctly spell out the still-resonant debates. In an imagined interview Ginsberg muses on his own creative process and personal struggles. Passages from the poem are interpreted in bold, hallucinatory sequences of animation. — BG.

“[The filmmakers’] passion for Ginsberg’s genius and their excitement over trying to deconstruct a literary master work is contagious.” — Kirk Honeycutt, Hollywood Reporter