William S. Burroughs: A Man Within

Promo (:28)
Clip 1 (2:03)
Clip 2 (1:35)
Clip 3 (1:28)

About the Film

William S. Burroughs is pictured in black and white shooting drugs into his left arm with a syringe.
William S. Burroughs is pictured in black and white seated in a chair with earphones and virtual reality glasses on.

William S. Burroughs: A Man Within investigates the life of the legendary beat author and American icon. Born the heir of the Burroughs Adding Machine estate, he struggled throughout his life with addiction, control systems, and self. He was forced to deal with the tragedy of killing his wife and the repercussions of neglecting his son. His novel, Naked Lunch, was one of the last books to be banned by the U.S. government. Allen Ginsberg and Norman Mailer testified on behalf of the book. The courts eventually overturned the 1966 decision, ruling that the book had important social value. It remains one of the most recognized literary works of the 20th century.

The film features never-before-seen footage of William S. Burroughs, as well as exclusive interviews with his closest friends and colleagues including John Waters, Genesis P-Orridge, Laurie Anderson, Peter Weller, David Cronenberg, Iggy Pop, Gus Van Sant, Sonic Youth, Anne Waldman, Hal Willner, James Grauerholz, Amiri Baraka, Jello Biafra, V. Vale, Wayne Propst, Diane DiPrima, Dean Ripa (the world's largest poisonous snake collector), and many others, with narration by actor Peter Weller, and soundtrack by Sonic Youth.

William Burroughs was one of the first to cross the dangerous boundaries of queer and drug culture in the 1950s, and write about his experiences. Eventually he was hailed the godfather of the beat generation and influenced artists for generations to come. But his friends were left wondering if he had ever found contentment or happiness. This extremely personal documentary pierces the surface of the troubled and brilliant world of one of the greatest authors of all time.

The Filmmaker

Director Yony Leyser smiling, while holding a video camera on his shoulder.

Yony Leyser is a 25-year-old filmmaker living in Chicago, Illinois. He has directed several short films. After being kicked out of film school, he moved to Lawrence, Kansas, and began shooting William S. Burroughs: A Man Within, his first feature film.