Paris is Burning
Paris is Burning
"There is a lot of common sense and natural wit behind the role-playing. Yet there is also a terrible sadness in the testimony." -Vincent Canby, New York Times
"It is strong, sardonically funny, sometimes shattering stuff." -Christine Dolen, Miami Herald
"If the wit, glamour and mind-boggling outfits of Paris Is Burning are disarming, not far beneath the film's surface is an immensely moving quality." -Louise Gray, Sight & Sound
Jennie Livingston’s landmark film is not without its share of controversy as many of the participants felt exploited. The documentary of the ballroom scene elevated the culture to a wider audience, but ultimately contributed to its appropriation and eventual mainstream slang and style. Though the TV series Pose explores some of the tragedies through characters, it's important to remember that modern drag would not exist without the very real Black and Hispanic transwomen who pioneered the space, far too many of whom died far too soon due to poverty and violence. Pride is about celebrating how far we've come, but also remembering those who risked everything to make progress possible.
Where does voguing come from, and what, exactly, is throwing shade? This landmark documentary provides a vibrant snapshot of the 1980s through the eyes of New York City’s African American and Latinx Harlem drag ball scene. Made over seven years, Paris Is Burning offers an intimate portrait of rival fashion “houses,” from fierce contests for trophies, to house mothers offering sustenance in a world rampant with homophobia and transphobia, racism, AIDS, and poverty. Featuring legendary voguers, drag queens, and trans women—including Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey, and Venus Xtravaganza—Paris Is Burning brings it, celebrating the joy of movement, the force of eloquence, and the draw of community.
Digitally remastered by the UCLA Film and Television Archive in conjunction with Sundance Institute and Outfest UCLA Legacy Project. Preservation funded by Sundance Institute, Outfest and the Andrew J. Kuehn Jr. Foundation.