Postcards from America

Director: Steve McLean
Screenwriters: Steve McLean

Institute History

  • 1995 Sundance Film Festival


Adapted from the autobiographical writings of the late artist David Wojnarowicz, Postcards from America is an impressive mediation on life as both reality and myth. Complex and at times elusive, it presents a somewhat metaphorical portrait of the author at different stages of his life. Interweaving three stories, director Steve McLean has fashioned a filmic universe which moves deftly between the personal and the social. The stories portray the central character as a young child in New Jersey in the 1960s with an abusive father, as a teenage hustler on the streets of New York, and as a young man traveling through the Southwest, driven by a fascination with anonymous sex and the open road.

Scenarios depicting violence, sexual desire, marginality and isolation, and ultimately death create a lived reality which is more representational than drama and is fascinating and compelling. Distanced and with a somewhat-fractured narrative, Postcards from America is clearly not a simple biographical piece. One’s sense of America as a world of repression and freedom, of nurturing and stunted growth, of desperation and fulfillment is eloquently, often poetically, stated.

Beautifully photographed by cinematographer Ellen Kuras, with a stylistic breadth and range that are quite rare, Postcards from America is ultimately a journey for both its protagonist and the audience. It’s a film that illuminates and instructs without a hint of didacticism or preaching. It’s not often that a film satisfies us on as many levels as this one. Postcards from America is an opportunity that should not be missed.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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