Andrea Andermann’s film, “Castelporziano Ostia dei poeti”) (1981) immortalizes the chaos and extraordinary happening/event that was the Primo Festivale Internazionale dei Poeti, in 1979, the International Poetry Festival, at Castelporzia.
Eleanor Mannikka writes:
“This documentary was shot at a three-day celebration of poetry (a “Poets’ Festival”) at the beach of Castelporziano near Rome in the summer of 1979. Pier Paolo Pasolini was killed on this beach a few years earlier and his murder is commented on by Yevgeny Yevtushenko at the beginning of the documentary. On the first day of the event, the camera focuses on both poets and audience, and reveals a striking reality: the audience is not only indifferent, it is increasingly antagonistic, and when one of the least-liked of the minor poets is booed off the stage, he flashes the audience in response. As the day wears on, objects go flying through the air, catcalls abound, and the self-styled poets seem to be taking their life in their hands when they get up in front of the microphone. Back at the hotel where they are staying, Allen Ginsberg, Le Roi Jones [Amiri Baraka], Yevtushenko and others discuss whether or not to go on with the planned third day. Meanwhile, as the camera pans across nearby beaches and out into the harbor, there is obviously no one around who realizes that this international event is taking place right next to them. Have the poets lost their touch in communicating with the world at large — or has the world become a place that is inhospitable to poets of any range of ability? The documentary raises these issues and lets the viewers formulate their own, individual opinions.”
For those too impatient to watch Andermann’s portrait in its entirety (and watch the festival mayhem in its context and unfurling), there’s a key moment (about 49 minutes in) when Allen is seen chanting (“OM”), trying to tamper down somewhat the already out-of-control energies of the huge crowd
– and then, (at approximately 63 minutes in) – footage of him declaring, “We will begin the poetry-reading tonight” (this would be the third and final night). “There are 22 poets from all countries (here) to read. Each poet (including myself, Allen Ginsberg) will read for 7 minutes” – The film then goes on to show glimpses of Yevtushenko (“poet-orator of modern Russia”, as Allen describes him), Peter Orlovsky (reading “America, Give A Shit”), Ted Joans, Brion Gysin, Miguel Algarin, Amiri Baraka.. Allen is the last of the American poets shown, performing “Father Death Blues” (further attempts to quiet things).
“Lunatics, Lovers and Poets” was this film’s (alternative) European title.