Paris Is Burning


O Cinema Wynwood Wed, Nov 11, 2015 9:00 PM
Film Info
Film Type:Documentary
Release Year:1990
Run Time:1h 16m
Cast/Crew Info
Director:Jennie Livingston


In the most poignant moments of Jennie Livingston’s groundbreaking documentary PARIS IS BURNING, Venus Xtravaganza and Octavia St. Laurent reveal their dreams. Octavia wants to be a high- fashion model; Venus would like to be wealthy, live in the country, and be loved and admired. If they were middle-class white girls, these goals might be attainable, but Octavia and Venus are male, black or Hispanic, and gay, relegated to the fringes of society. Before gay marriage, before Ru Paul’s Drag Race, before “fierce” was a household term, were the drag balls, ecstatic underground gatherings of the largely non-white, gay and transgender working class community of New York City, as captured in this now iconic 1991 documentary which captured the last days of the scene that inspired Madonna’s Vogue and Malcolm McLaren’s Deep in Vogue.
Livingston spent years constructing this intimate portrait of New York’s subterranean transsexual/transgender community and the parties—known as balls—its members use to express themselves and forge fragile, but resilient, identities. These balls, likePARIS IS BURNING, feature “voguing,” an energetic fusion of break dancing, gymnastics, and runway parading borrowed from fashion modeling. “You can become anything and do anything,” one participant tells us. “It’s our fantasy of being superstars.”
PARIS IS BURNING maintains a rare balance between fly-on-the-wall objectivity and compassionate interaction with its subjects. The film shared the documentary Grand Jury Prize at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival and won multiple other awards. This new, digitally restored print, a collaboration between Sundance Institute, the UCLA Film & Television Archive, and the Outfest Legacy Project, makes this seminal work shine as brilliantly as the unknown stars of the film itself.