Paris Is Burning

Ones To Watch


It is one of the most highly rated films on club culture and the world surrounding it ever made; a documentary that has become legendary among the gay community and dance music fans alike; an award-winning outing that catalogued the then burgeoning world of vogueing that was aped by Madonna and turned into a worldwide sensation…

It is Paris Is Burning, a landmark documentary that took some seven years plus to make and is, on 27 April 2009, set to receive an eagerly awaited UK DVD release for the first time ever, courtesy of Second Sight.

The film, directed by Jennie Livingston, catalogues the world of “balls”, the huge events that see scores of New York drag queens parading up and down runways in lavish and flamboyant (and more often than not, home-made) costumes. Catty audiences then pass judgment on the fiercest outfits on show. The drag balls were hugely influential in 80s club culture, with the style on shows spreading from New York’s underground to clubs – and beyond – across the world.

Livingston’s remarkable and multi-award winning film follows numerous contestants and assorted queens as they ready themselves for the lavish balls. But as well as looking at the fun aspect of this world, Livingston looks beyond the glitter and glamour. Many of the young drag queens were African American and Hispanic, and, as gay men, were often disowned by their predominantly working class families. The camaraderie of the scene – and the associated “houses” (influenced by the likes of Chanel, these are effectively teams sporting their own outrageous styles and themes) provided many of them with a support network and the closest thing many of them would have to a family. And, of course, the spectre of HIV and AIDS (some of its stars have subsequently died) looms large.

The film has spawned a huge cult following in the UK despite its unavailability on DVD; with many clubgoers, dance music aficionados praising its style AND substance.





Reviews Archive