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  • Writer's picturePerrin Faerch

Classics Review: Paris is Burning (1990)

Updated: Apr 16, 2021

Original Review Date: 11 June 2020

Seeing as it is Pride Month, I think it’s a good time to talk a little about one of my favourite doccies: Paris is Burning (1990), directed by Jennie Livingston.

The documentary focuses on the vibrant African American and Latino Ball Culture that lit up New York City during the late 80s. Our subjects are fascinating individuals, from drag icons to house mothers and their community all just trying their best to survive in a city that, at that time in particular, was a cruel place towards the gay and trans communities; especially the communities of colour in the tougher neighbourhoods.

Livingston manages to squeeze so much into its tight 78 minute running time. Capturing these individuals in their playground of the Ball Houses as well as them in the outside world designed to favour straight white men. Interviews overlaying drag performances and voguing battles create a stunning atmosphere of liberation and identity that is difficult not to want to feel apart of. Livingston’s heroes and heroines fill us in on the lingo throughout, allowing for us to also be apart of their scene with no judgement and only acceptance.

It’s not hard to understand why Paris is Burning is an essential piece of LGBTQ+ cinema. It’s culturally significant and really should be on everyone’s viewing list. It's also worth noting that Criterion’s recent release features a gorgeous new restoration that brings new life to this classic filled with wonderful supplements that makes this release so worthwhile.

You can stream Paris is Burning over at the Criterion Channel.

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