The Film

A middle-aged white man wearing sunglasses and a white polo shirt tucked into striped slacks poses next to a white, 1950s-era automobile on a sunny, tree-lined street

“Los Angeles give me some of you! Los Angeles come to me the way I came to you, my feet over your streets, you pretty town I loved so much, you sad flower in the sand, you pretty town.” 
––from Ask the Dust

A SAD FLOWER IN THE SAND is the first major film documentary about a largely unsung writer of the twentieth century: John Fante, the renegade author whose highly autobiographical novels illustrate his deep-rooted love of Los Angeles and his struggles working through poverty and prejudice.

Born in Denver in 1909, Fante grew up in a working class Italian-American family that was plagued by prejudice and poverty. At 21, he struck out for Los Angeles and wrote the autobiographical novels The Road to Los Angeles, Dreams from Bunker Hill and his most acclaimed work, Ask the Dust, capturing the rhythms of Los Angeles life in prose that later inspired such writers as Charles Bukowski, who famously referred to Fante as “my God.”

Like Bukowski, Fante shouldered bitter resentments, spending his non-writing hours drinking, gambling and toiling miserably as a Hollywood screenwriter. A SAD FLOWER IN THE SAND explores Fante’s art and life through interviews with those who knew him best: writer/director Robert Towne (Chinatown), publisher John Martin, his biographer Stephen Cooper, wife Joyce and sons, Jim and Dan.

The result is a hypnotic tour through Fante’s life, work and his beloved Los Angeles––with old and new footage of the streets, hotels and gin joints that were his home and inspiration.

Learn about the life of John Fante >>

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