P.S. Burn This Letter Please
P.S. Burn This Letter Please owes its existence to the fact the postscript instruction was not followed by the recipient. Rather, in 2014, a box containing hundreds of letters was discovered in a Los Angeles storage unit. Its contents contained letters signed off “As Always, Daphne”, “Charlie” and “Josephine” (among others) which were the names of drag queens or, as they often preferred, femme impersonators living and working in New York in the 1950s. Soon after their discovery, the letters became a blueprint to discover the memories that may have otherwise been lost in the channels of time.
A cast of characters emerges from directors Michael Seligman and Jennifer Tiexiera’s historical quest. It seems that the easiest way to retrace the many lives that brightened the New York drag scene is through the archives of arrest records. Instead, Seligman and Tiexiera put in the crucial work to dig up stories of the marginalised and give a voice to their subjects. Luckily, the voices they discover are original, kind, and exceedingly funny. Whether they are recalling a friend or the dresses they bought (and often stole), they speak with intense vivacity.
Though the handwriting from the letters occasionally scrawls across the screen, it falls to the wayside as tales come to life from the oral retelling. Music, photographs and the searing memory of its subjects create an ecstatic and touching capsule of memories stretching back to a time before Stonewall. The stories equally breathe life into the many locations (Cork Club, Brooks Costumes on 6th Avenue, and Club 82), which have either wholly disappeared or drastically changed with the city.
The film is a letter of self-love to many of the drag queens, their past selves, and to the city which proves itself intensely unjust to those who make it so unique. P.S. Burn This Letter Please attests that life is infinitely less rich when we strive to be the same, and highlights the crucial work of the historian and the potential brilliance of documentary.
P.S. Burn This Letter Please does not have a UK release date yet.
Read more reviews from our Tribeca Film Festival 2020 coverage here.