Free ReFrame Film Festival screening of acclaimed documentary celebrates Pride Week in Peterborough

'P.S. Burn This Letter Please' tells the stories of New York City drag queens in the 1950s, when it was illegal to 'masquerade' as a woman

One of the subjects of the documentary "P.S. Burn This Letter Please", 84-year-old George Roth (aka "Rita George") is shown preparing in 2019 for the 50th anniversary of his being named "Miss Fire Island" in Cherry Grove, New York. In the 1950s, Cherry Grove became a "safe haven" for members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community who were otherwise ostracized and persecuted for being themselves. (Photo: Zachary Shields)
One of the subjects of the documentary "P.S. Burn This Letter Please", 84-year-old George Roth (aka "Rita George") is shown preparing in 2019 for the 50th anniversary of his being named "Miss Fire Island" in Cherry Grove, New York. In the 1950s, Cherry Grove became a "safe haven" for members of the 2SLGBTQ+ community who were otherwise ostracized and persecuted for being themselves. (Photo: Zachary Shields)

To mark Pride Week in Peterborough/Nogojiwanong, Peterborough Pride and ReFrame Film Festival are presenting a free week-long virtual screening of the acclaimed documentary film P.S. Burn This Letter Please.

The theme of the 19th annual Pride Week, which begins today (September 17) and runs until September 26, is “Change Starts Here”.

“The gay or queer rights movement was born out of a need for fundamental change to end the oppression, discrimination, and violence against 2SLGBTQ+ individuals,” reads a media release from Peterborough Pride organizers.

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“Over the last 50 or so years, we have seen laws change to end the oppression and to provide equal rights. That said, violence and discrimination against People of Colour and Black, Indigenous, and Queer individuals has continued. We all have to actively make the changes to the culture that perpetuates these injustices.”

The film P.S. Burn This Letter Please exemplifies the theme. Co-directed by Jennifer Tiexiera and Michael Seligman, the documentary explores a box of letters, discovered in a Los Angeles storage locker in 2014, that were written in the 1950s by a group of New York City drag queens — a time and place when “masquerading” as a woman was illegal and penalties were swift and severe.

The film uses original interviews, never-before-seen archival footage, and photographs and stylized recreations to tell the stories of Lennie, Robbie, George, Michael, Jim, Henry, Claude, Tish, and Terry — former drag queens now in their 80s and 90s — and to reveal how they survived and somehow flourished at a time when drag queens were both revered and reviled, even within the gay community.

VIDEO: “P.S. Burn This Letter Please” trailer

“The government sought to destroy them, then history tried to erase them, now they get to tell their story for the first time,” reads a description of the film.

P.S. Burn This Letter Please is available for free streaming online from September 18 through September 26 at watch.eventive.org/reframesummerseries/play/6143a554b5f52b0ecf39f515.

ReFrame Film Festival also hopes to have another virtual film screening for Peterborough Pride 2021 next week.

Due to the pandemic, Peterborough Pride will not be holding a parade or any large gatherings during this year’s Pride Week. However, there are lots of virtual events and smaller in-person events happening during Pride Week.

You can see what’s happening during Pride Week at peterboroughpride.ca, where you can also learn more about the theme of this year’s Pride Week and the history of Peterborough Pride.