If you’re into William S. Burroughs, maybe you’ve watched all the Burroughs-related material we’ve featured here on Open Culture, like his 1981 Saturday Night Live appearance or the 1991 documentary Commissioner of Sewers. But another documentary on Burroughs exists — the earliest one of all — and we can’t show it to you. Nobody can show Burroughs: The Movie to you, or at least they can’t show it to you in any crisp, clear, accessible form. Sure you could pay between 25 and 90 dollars for a VHS copy on Amazon, but that money might be more productively put toward restoring the original film. As you can see in the video above, such a restoration is in the works, provided the restorers can raise the $20,000 they need to do it on Kickstarter by the end of this month.
Aaron Brookner, nephew of Burroughs: The Movie’s director Howard Brookner, found a print of the film in good condition, but now needs the funding to remaster it cleanly into a modern digital form. Begun in 1979 and debuted on the BBC in 1983, the documentary includes interviews not just with Burroughs but with Allen Ginsberg, Brion Gysin, Francis Bacon, Herbert Hunke, Patti Smith, Terry Southern, and Lauren Hutton. Howard Brookner, who died in 1989, made it as his New York University film school thesis, and to operate the camera and record the sound he enlisted two soon-to-be famous classmates, Tom DiCillo and Jim Jarmusch. As of this writing, Aaron Brookner has received $9,425 in pledges, nearly half of his goal. Burroughs enthusiasts interested in chipping in — backing premiums include limited-edition DVDs, never-before-heard audio recordings, and Burroughs: The Movie photobooks — should visit the project’s Kickstarter page.