The film “Paul Goodman Changed My Life” pays tribute to a man — poet, teacher, social critic, and guru - who was once widely read, but has since fallen into an unmerited obscurity. It is that fall from public awareness that this documentary seeks to overcome.
Goodman was a member of the generation of Jewish intellectuals who made their way from the margins to the center of American cultural life. Born and raised in New York, he was an early opponent of the Vietnam War, a founder of Gestalt therapy and a member of the faculty of Black Mountain College in North Carolina, the institution that was home to such thinkers and artists as Ed Dorn, Robert Creeley and Robert Rauschenberg, and birthed the American avant-garde. Not only a public intellectual, Goodman was also an active participant in the movements that aimed to change society and not just reflect upon it.
Though married twice and the father of three children, Goodman was open and unapologetic about his sexual attraction to both men and women. “Paul Goodman Changed My Life” is a fascinating film that paints a composite portrait of a complex man who never stopped thinking and who was incapable of anything but honesty in thought and deed.
At the SIFF Cinema from December 2 through December 8, 2011.