P.S. Burn This Letter Please

This staggering Tribeca Film Festival selection from Michael Seligman and Jennifer Tiexiera is a dishy, devastating look back at the drag culture of New York City in the 1950s — a time when pre-Stonewall drag queens broke down barriers at tremendous personal risk. (Some in the scene preferred to be called female impersonators or femme mimics.) The doc recovers a lost, essential chapter of LGBTQ history through letters written to radio broadcaster Reno Martin, and tracks down the crushes, struggles, and victories behind them — as well as the story of a brilliant wig heist.

You’ll marvel at the ’50s slang and how much of it has evolved into the popular language of today — and may find a few phrases you’ll want to bring back. (“Remember that number who was bats over me?”) It ends with two delightful surprises.

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P.S. Burn This Letter Please

Michael Seligman and Jennifer Tiexiera use a cache of 1950s letters to recreate a forgotten and essential time in LGBTQ history in P.S. Burn This Letter Please.

M for Magic

Alexis Manya Spraic’s documentary, which should have debuted at SXSW, traces the history of The Magic Castle, The Hollywood institution where guests slip through a secret passageway into a magnificent hall of illusion. It’s not just the hangout of our greatest magicians — and celebrities like Colin Farrell, Laurence Fishburne, and Dita Von Teese, all of whom make memorable appearances — but also a fantastic preservation hall of L.A. myth.

M for Magic also tells the behind-the-curtain story of how Bill and Milt Larsen received most of the credit for the castle’s creation in 1963, and how Irene Larsen, Bill’s wife, finally got the recognition she was due. Oh, and did we mention that Neil Patrick Harris swoops in at one point to save the day? You’ll want to watch this one as close as a card trick.

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Magic Castle

A demonstration of some of the actual magic performed in Alexis Manya Spraic’s history of The Magic Castle, M for Magic.

Finding YingYing

First-time director Jiayan “Jenny” Shi traces the disappearance of Yingying Zhang, a University of Illinois student with whom Shi attended school in China. Shi obtains astonishing access to every element of the case — much of the video has an “I can’t believe I’m seeing this” quality — and provides an informative, thought-provoking look at the American criminal justice system through the eyes of Ying-Ying’s Chinese family. She lays out shocking moments with precision, showing impressive restraint as the story becomes more and more infuriating.

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Finding YingYing documentary recommendation doc recos

Jiayan “Jenny” Shi traces the disappearance of Yingying Zhang (pictured) in Finding YingYing.

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