Society owes a debt to Barney Rosset -- this film is a step
I attended the U.S. Premiere of "Obscene" at the 2008 SXSW Film Festival. But don't let the name fool you -- there is nothing obscene in or about this film. The only thing that's obscene is how government has tried to legislate morality and the courts have colluded over the past hundred years to block the publishing of literature by passing judgment on what is acceptable in America.
This eye-opening documentary about legendary publisher Barney Rosset exposes the reality of how First Amendment rights have actually been withheld over the years. Considered the pioneer of anti-censorship laws, Rosset, as the owner of New York-based Grove Press and the Evergreen Review, was involved in lawsuit after lawsuit in an effort to introduce some of the world's greatest authors, poets, and filmmakers to America. In that he succeeded, yet his name may not be well known to the public. This film hopes to change that.
Notables interviewed on screen include Ray Manzarek of The Doors, William S. Burroughs, John Waters, Gore Vidal, John Sayles, Erica Jong, Al Goldstein, Jim Carroll, Amiri Baraka, and Lenny Bruce -- a veritable Who's Who of artists and writers who've fought their own battles against censorship. "Obscene" is totally engaging and production values are top-notch.
Books like Henry Miller's "Tropic of Cancer" and William S. Burroughs' "Naked Lunch," along with the film classic "I Am Curious: Yellow," would not be part of our culture if not for the work of Barney Rosset. More than anything, though, "Obscene" is a human interest story about the life of one man -- what he achieved and how he suffered in his later years. The film is both moving and heartbreaking, and long overdue. Certainly anyone whose career or personal life involves championing the First Amendment should see this movie.
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