About this project
Our Kickstarter campaign ends on Saturday, April 23, at 8:53 a.m. EST.
We'll be updating our backers via Kickstarter, but please also visit our website at www.barneyswallthefilm.com to follow our film's progress as we move through the final edit process and into film festivals. (Our highlit/pop culture mash-up Updates will continue on our site under BLOG.) If you have missed the deadline on this campaign, you can make a contribution on our website's home page at any time and be thanked with arresting and unique Rewards.
Our deepest, deepest thanks to all our loyal backers who are helping us share Barney's culture-changing legacy. You are all now honorary members of Team Barney and will be invited to our film's premiere.
That’s a sentiment so common in every TV show, movie, book, play and music track today that you probably find it… quaint.
In late ‘fifties America, though, just printing “fuck” would land you in jail. Selling a copy of Allen Ginsberg’s poems could get you arrested by the government.
That’s the equivalent today of a government ban on downloading Jay Z, reading Fifty Shades of Grey, watching Empire, and streaming Chris Rock.
So how did we get to today’s cultural freedoms?
Because of one stubborn rebel's hatred of authority. Enter Barney Rosset, 29, reckless, and angry. He's just bought a dinky publishing house called Grove Press and wants to publish his favorite author. One problem: the US government has banned it. Believe it or not, the Postmaster General could label a book 'obscene' and ban it. And if you sold a banned book or mailed it, you could be arrested.
Barney starts a campaign to bring down government censorship. He publishes the most notorious banned books of the day, the racy Lady Chatterley’s Lover, Henry Miller's steamy Tropic of Cancer, and William S. Burrough's drug-drenched Naked Lunch. As expected the government bans them all as 'obscene.'
For three years, Barney Rosset and Grove Press fight sixty battles in municipal courts and The Supreme Court, defending "Lady Chatterley’s Lover", "Tropic of Cancer" and "Naked Lunch." Barney is almost bankrupt before he wins. Triumphantly.
In a landmark First Amendment decision, government censorship is declared unconstitutional.
Overnight, 'fuck' is legal. Everywhere writers and readers rejoice.
Barney and Grove Press publish writers so radical they change contemporary literature and politics forever. Five of them go on to win the Nobel Prize for Literature.
Grove Press and its house magazine "Evergreen Review" become the equivalent of today's Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram, the BuzzFeed of the era. It's a place for seekers and questers to go to find out what's happening and what matters
Barney's Grove Press and Evergreen Review launch the cultural, political and sexual revolution of 'the sixties'. The counterculture and "Join the Underground" movement permeates college campuses, literature, music and film.
Barney is so notorious that the mainstream "Saturday Evening Post" shows him crawling out of a sewer.
In his eighties, Barney remains a cult figure. Artists and writers and readers all over the world visit his loft. He's met nearly anybody who was anybody on the cultural and political map and his stories are riveting. He's digitized his counter-culture magazine "Evergreen Review" and he finds new 'subversives'. He rescues Victorian spanking novels and makes a weird, underground film. He creates two new publishing imprints. His energy is demonic. He has to channel it.
One day he takes all the paintings off a 12' x 22' wall and starts to paint. Then he puts stuff up on it. Friends bring him styrofoam packaging that he transforms into fantastic dioramas Velcro-ed to the wall. Then he embeds souvenirs into the dioramas: a Zapatista keychain, a Korean suicide knife, Day of the Dead dolls. He's 86 years old, and still clambering up a stepladder to reach the corners.
Barney paints his wall for the next three years. He changes it constantly He can't stop. He's obsessed. When he can't climb the stepladder anymore, he attaches brushes and sponges to a pool cue and keeps going.
After he dies no one can figure it out. Why would he do it?
Why would one of the most famous publishers and editors in the world not leave one word on his wall?
Was the wall a sort of memoir? Were the symbols and dioramas embedded in the wall clues to the influences and obsessions that drove Barney Rosset to fight anything that stood in his way? Including the government?
Over two years, we filmed friends and family, artists, writers, painters...asking them to help us interpret the wall.
Word got out and curiosity built. The press started covering the story of the wall, intrigued.
Nobody we asked to interpret the wall turned us down. Barney was still a legend.
We filmed: Two painters, an art critic, one musician, three writers, a biographer, a museum curator, three filmmakers, an underground performance artist, one technology executive, an editor, two publishers, an Iraq war veteran, an animal behaviorist, two art gallerists, one architect, several family members, two shamans - and a neurologist.
We filmed in Barney’s bohemian East Village loft, at his home in East Hampton and, finally, in Bangkok, one of Barney's favorite places in the world.
We filmed amazing people who had been inspired by Barney: among them, a Swedish director of "Waiting for Godot" in prisons around the world (including San Quentin), a legendary jazz musician’s son who became an inventor and artist, a neurologist who explained the science of memory, an expat writer of sexy detective novels who in Bangkok talked of Barney's infatuation with Asia, a young writer who helped found Occupy Wall Street, a shaman who channeled Barney's spirit. Each of them had a separate story to tell about Barney.
Through their stories we began to understand the sources of Barney's life-long rebellion against authority, whether it was government censorship, conventional morality or - as time ran out for Barney - death itself.
Our film is the story of Barney's wall, and Barney's wall is the story of Barney.
We'll be posting clips on our website of more of our cast.
Click the links below to find out more about us:
We're here on Kickstarter to raise funding for the next stage of our film: post-production. After a year and a half of self-financing and a lot of sweat equity we are poised to move into our final stage.
Post-production demands big bucks.
That's why we're here on Kickstarter to ask for your support.
The more funding we raise with your help, the faster we can finish.
Here’s what your pledges will support:
- If we raise $75K, we'll have enough to complete our rough cut final edit, sound mix, color correction, and be on our way to a final cut.
To thank you we have created totally unique rewards.
We've created thank you rewards for your support of our project. They can't be found anywhere else, in stores or on the web. They're unique and special. Like our backers.
Support this project by pledging and get one of these originals as a thank you from us. Just scroll down to the bottom of this page and hit "Back this project" and you'll be taken to the page where you pledge for the reward you covet. Here they are!
William S. Burroughs Paranoid T-shirt
Much like Laura Poitras today, Barney Rosset was intensely surveilled by America's security agencies. Over a decades-long stake out, the FBI and the CIA compiled hundreds of thousands of pages of intel on Barney, who successfully sued under The Freedom Of Information Act to retrieve his files. To commemorate the democratization of America's security apparatus, we made this timely t-shirt, with our campaign image. Government censors (it could happen again, listen up, people) banned William S. Burroughs's now-cult-classic novel, "Naked Lunch." Barney published it anyway. Wear this t-shirt and strike a blow against censorship. These shirts are not available in stores, but early summer shipment guarantees you’ll be rocking Burroughs and Big Brother on the beach this summer! Our t-shirt is printed on American Apparel t-shirts, manufactured 100% in the USA, exclusively created for this Kickstarter campaign.
LAST EXIT TO BROOKLYN
Rock the hippest t-shirt in Brooklyn at your neighborhood coffee shop, music venue, or loft party. The classically hip Grove Press cover of Hubert Selby's debut novel inspired us to create this American Apparel t-shirt.
You might need something to read on the way over, so we've included the e-book version of Rami Shamir's hip, best-selling TRAIN TO POKIPSE, edited by Barney Rosset, who blurbed the novel "a Catcher In the Rye for the new generation". A jolting, lyrical contemporary coming of age story, with a new introduction by the cocreator of Occupy Wall Street, the last revolution witnessed by Barney
Download the e-book version of Rami Shamir's best-selling TRAIN TO POKIPSE, edited by Barney Rosset, who called the novel "a Catcher In the Rye for the new generation". A jolting, lyrical contemporary coming of age story, with a new introduction by the co-creator of Occupy Wall Street, the last revolution witnessed by Barney.
Available in EPUB or MOBI format
Feeling paranoid? Well, you should be, and with our backers exclusive bookmark you can be certain that you will be. One side’s innocuous as a photo-booth strip; the other will keep you on your toes with literary reminders from William S. Burroughs and George Orwell’s "1984." Yeah, “Big Brother’s Watching You” and you’re paranoid, but everything’s still cool because “a paranoid is someone who knows a little of what’s going on.”
Own a piece of the "paperback revolution" from the personal library of the man who made it happen. Black Cat paperbacks from the Barney Rosset Library, affixed with Barney's personal library stamp.
AUTOBIO DOUBLE FEATURE
Malcolm X. Frantz Fanon. Julius Lester. Long before he produced “Strange Victory,” the 1948 feature about America under Jim Crow segregation, Barney Rosset understood that black lives mattered. His earliest protest was a boycott of “Gone With the Wind” when he was still in high school. It’s no surprise that Barney championed voices which defined America's Black Liberation Movement—without which it's hard to imagine Black Lives Matter. Two paperbacks from Barney Rosset's personal library, library-stamped. In a spirit of solidarity, we're including a year-long membership to PEN and an EP of "Die Jim Crow" from fellow Kickstarter creator Fury Young. This concept album about America's prison system includes formerly and currently incarcerated black songwriters from across the country.
MIDNIGHT SCREENING: EVERGREEN FILM PACK
Two Evergreen Film paperbacks from the Barney Rosset library, a DVD copy of Samuel Beckett's only film (entitled, appropriately, "FILM"), produced by Barney Rosset and starring Buster Keaton, and a DVD of Milestone Films' remastered and just-released 1948 documentary noir, "Strange Victory", produced by Barney Rosset and directed by Leo Hurwitz. Rosset and Hurwitz's classic film combines archival footage shot during the Second World War with Hurwitz's own material — both nonfiction and dramatic reenactments — to draw parallels between Hitler's rise to power and the growth of fascism here at home in the years immediately after V-Day. The "Village Voice" calls the film, recently screened at The Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM): "The most ambitious leftist film made in the US between 'Native Land' and 'Salt of the Earth'."
Plus our exclusive William S. Burroughs t-shirt, backer credit in our film, our Paranoid Bookmark, an exclusive link to advance stream the film, and a shout-out on our social media.
PINTERESQUE: GROVE THEATER PACKAGE
Harold Pinter. Samuel Beckett. Eugene Ionesco. David Mamet. Edward Albee. Contemporary theatre in America has been defined by the playwrights that Barney Rosset published through Grove Press. And now you can display that unique history on your wall with an original poster for the EVERGREEN THEATER's 1960 summer season. Hand-numbered. Set of 20.
Plus two Grove press paperback plays from the personal library of Barney Rosset, affixed with Barney's stamp; and a DVD copy of the definitive film version of Samuel Beckett’s most famous play "Waiting for Godot" (starring Zero Mostel.) For those nights you want to veg out without tuning out.
BIG BROTHER'S STILL WATCHING MOBILE PHONE CASE
Your phone conversations and emails are monitored by the NSA. Might as well be spied on in style. Our backers exclusive mobile phone case, printed with the campaign’s signature image of William S. Burroughs, will make you stand out among the crowd at your next music show or protest. iPhone and Android compatible.
TAROT CARD READING FROM THE QUEEN
"On a stunning springtime afternoon, a few doors from the fairyland that is Central Park, I showed up at chez Flawless, who resides not far from the Whitney in a prewar lair befitting bohemian royalty," writes ARTFORUM's Rhonda Lieberman about her tarot card reading with Mother Flawless Sabrina, star of the 1968 Evergreen distributed film "The Queen." Only one of these are available so get it while you can. (Backers outside of New York can Skype the Tarot or save the reading for their next visit to the Big Apple.)
Two first edition Samuel Beckett softcover books from the library of Barney Rosset, a DVD copy of Samuel Beckett’s “FILM,” a DVD copy of the definitive film version of Samuel Beckett’s most famous play "Waiting for Godot," a DVD copy of the new Milestone release “NotFilm,” and an advance copy of the forthcoming book of Beckett/Rosset lifetime correspondence “Dear Mr Beckett"—a look into one of the twentieth century's definitive literary bromances.
RETURN TO THE CHATEAU
Own your very own rare book from the original Grove Press library. This first-edition copy of "Return to the Chateau"—Pauline Reage's steamy sequel to her BDSM classic "Story of O"—notes on the backstrip: DO NOT REMOVE LIBRARY COPY (typed) GP 689 (handwritten.) Very few such books appear on the market, so don't miss out!
THE WALKING DEAD
Enjoy your own (plus one) private and thrillingly unique excursion to Brooklyn's treasured, iconic burial ground, Green-Wood Cemetery, NYC's Père Lachaise. The New York Times, 1866: “It is the ambition of the New Yorker to live upon Fifth Avenue, to take his airings in the [Central] Park, and to sleep with his fathers in Green-Wood." With the learned guidance of Brooklyn-based author Ted Hamm, author of the forthcoming "Frederick Douglass in Brooklyn", hear stories about graffiti art star Jean-Michel Basquiat, the Morse Code revolution, baseball legends, politicians, artists, entertainers, and Civil War generals.
Includes Rosset's stamped personal copy of Hubert Selby's "Last Exit to Brooklyn." How apropos. Undiminished in its awesome power and magnitude as the novel that first showed us the fierce, primal rage seething in America’s cities, Selby's novel brings out the dope addicts, hoodlums, prostitutes, workers, and thieves brawling in the back alleys of Brooklyn. This explosive best-seller has come to be regarded as a classic of modern American writing.
YOU WERE CURIOUS, NOW YOU'RE DRUNK
Two very happy hours of drinking at The Library, New York's last East Village dive, with Williams Cole—co-producer of "Barney's Wall," "HBO's Gun Fight," and "99%: The Occupy Wall Street Collaborative Movie." A co-founder of the highly influential Brooklyn Rail, Cole has been producing, editing, directing and writing about documentary film for over 15 years.
Spend your two hours discussing technical processes used in documentary filmmaking or getting tips on how to break into primetime.
Includes Barney Rosset's stamped personal soft-cover copy of "I am Curious (Yellow): Complete Film Scenario", the notorious 1969 Swedish film that was banned in Boston, which probably is why it was the twelfth highest grossing film in the U.S. that year. The censorship battle went all the way to the Supreme Court before the film was ruled 'not obscene.'
PARIS REVIEW PORTAL
See how it feels to be part of the literary hum. Our Paris Review 'Art of Writing' Package includes an exclusive invitation (+1) to The Paris Review's hot summer-issue party in its storied offices. You'll also receive The Paris Review’s Winter 1997 issue (no. 145) with interviews with Barney Rosset on the art of publishing and Jeanette Winterson on the art of fiction inside, plus two Paris Review gems: "The Unprofessionals" and "Object Lessons." And to top it off, a year's subscription to The Paris Review. Decade after decade, The Paris Review has welcomed into its pages "the good writers and good poets, the non-drumbeaters and non-axe grinders. So long as they're good." Barney was the first recipient of the Paris Review's highest literary award: the Hadada Prize, created by George Plimpton.
BARNEY ROSSET'S COME ALIVE 1966 EVERGREEN POSTER
Your once in a lifetime opportunity to own this original "Come Alive" poster from Grove's 1966 marketing campaign in NYC subways. (Yes, that's Allen Ginsberg!) This framed, mint condition print-quality original hung on Barney Rosset's wall for forty years. (And oh the stories it could tell!) Talk about being a fly on the wall for four decades of American history. (Except, of course, in the world of Barney Rosset such a fly can only be one of the iconic countercultural posters of all time.) Pledge NOW and rejoin the Revolution!
I learned early on that any book with Grove Press on its spine was an instant window into everything my buttoned-up parents were desperate to keep me from knowing. The diversity of the voices Barney published in his books and in his Evergreen Review sparked my intellectual life. All the films I’ve made are about individuals whose ideas challenged and even disrupted the status quo. My most recent film delved into how and why James Salter came to write his erotic masterpiece, A Sport and a Pastime. Ten years ago, I jumped on the chance to do a filmed interview with Barney, and to help him with his autobiography. In the years after, I got to know him, and his wife Astrid, well. Barney was a force, a magus, legendary in his charisma. He pulled everyone into his orbit. He lived intensely, on this planet and his own parallel one. Barney's mind and life are literally splattered onto this huge wall. It has been catnip for us unraveling its mysteries. And our ‘cast’ is dynamite; some have become wound into my life, especially Astrid, Barney’s brilliant, resilient, beautiful widow. I think of her, in a double entendre, as Barney’s wall. He could not have built it without her. And certainly without Astrid we could never have made this film. She has been our muse.
I grew up around writers and publishers. My mother founded Poets & Writers and my father was a publicist, anthologist and humorist who helped launch James Baldwin and R. Crumb. My own trajectory included a deep interest in “subversive” literature and social and economic justice. I ended up a producer of social issue documentaries and film and video work on poets and authors. Barney and his wife Astrid were in the circle of my parents and I ended up interviewing him in 2008 for the Brooklyn Rail, a publication I co-founded. After Barney died, Sandy told me that she visited the loft and saw Barney’s Wall. He made the wall of his loft into a mural in the last years of his life? Who does that? Thus began our visits to the loft and the development of this film. Barney was so important to what I think is the core of the American ideal: inclusiveness, tolerance and the freedom to say what you want and be who you want to be. That he dedicated his last years to obsessively creating this wall is no small matter. And how people reacted to and interpreted this last testament, this final cri de coeur against mortality, has been truly amazing. Of course it demands a film. It is a unique, compelling way to not only tell a biographical story but to explore insights into expression, creativity. Our vision of the USA and the world is one that moves forward to more diversity, acceptance, knowledge and pleasure. That was Barney’s. Why would anyone want anything else but that?
Risks and challenges
We’ve spent almost two years filming this documentary. We’ve completed a rough cut. We've had mini screenings of our footage, with very positive feedback. We need to bring in a professional editor to polish our rough cut. We need to commission original music. We need to cover the costs of intellectual property rights. We have the Barney Rosset estate backing us. All of Barney's friends and family are backing us. We're all a team. We count on you to help us see this through. We really need your help. We consider this a community project. You are very much a part of our film.Learn about accountability on Kickstarter
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