Paris is Burning is a 1990 documentary film directed by Jennie Livingston that explores the world of ball culture in New York City during the 1980s. The film provides a glimpse into the lives of African American and Latino LGBTQ+ individuals who created their own communities in the face of poverty, racism, and homophobia.
The ball culture, (Also featured in POSE) is a subculture of LGBT individuals who participate in competitions or “balls” where they showcase their skills and talents in various categories such as “vogueing,” drag, and fashion. The participants, known as “house members,” are divided into houses, which are essentially surrogate families that offer support, love, and acceptance to LGBT individuals who are often ostracized from their biological families.
Paris is Burning captures the experiences of the house members who use their bodies and performances to create a sense of identity and belonging. The film highlights the struggles that the participants face on a daily basis, such as homelessness, unemployment, and discrimination, and how they use the ball culture as a form of escape and resistance.
Some critics consider the film to be an invaluable documentary of the end of the “Golden Age” of New York City drag balls, and a thoughtful exploration of race, class, gender, and sexuality in America.
In 2016, the film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant”.
Overall, Paris is Burning is a powerful and poignant documentary that sheds light on the experiences of LGBT individuals of color in the ball culture. The film offers a glimpse into the resilience, creativity, and strength of a community that has been historically marginalized and silenced. The film remains as relevant today as the LGBT community as it was the day it was released.
You can watch the FULL documentary “Paris Is Burning” below.
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