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Piero Heliczer filming the Velvet Underground for CBS News, "The Making of an Underground Film", December 1965.

© Adam Ritchie

the invisible father

Piero Heliczer...Beat poet, experimental filmmaker, madman and... father?   Tracing his underground life, his estranged daughter considers both the promise and pitfalls of authentic creativity. While he was a key influencer, she has to come to terms with the legacy of his mental illness and absence.

 

The film

 

1950s Paris at the Beat Hotel. 1960s New York at Andy Warhol's Factory. 56 Ludlow Street where the band the Velvet Underground was born. Piero Heliczer was at the center of it all--writing poems, making films and creating multimedia "happenings.” But what price did his 5 wives and 8 children pay for his authentic creativity and bohemian life?

The film will show Heliczer through his films, poetry and art. In addition, the stories from his friends, collaborators and family will uncover the lost art of letterpress printing, beat poetry and cultural happenings. The experience of hearing a poet read in front of an audience with a multimedia presentation of music, film and movement was just beginning and Heliczer helped create that phenomenon with collaborators such as the Velvet Underground and Andy Warhol.

The film will also touch about the family’s history and stories of Heliczer’s mental illness and artistic authenticity. How is living with a true artist and caring for someone with mental illness? How are brilliance and madness interwoven? While Heliczer’s daughters struggle with his absence in their lives, was his artistic authenticity worth the hole it left in their lives?

 

Over 20 interviews have been conducted with Heliczer’s underground contemporaries, family and friends.