There’s been a renewed interest in ballroom culture and vogueing recently, be it MikeQ’s involvement with the Night Slugs and Fade To Mind crew or Zebra Katz’s inescapable Ima Read. With this comes a renewed interest in ‘Paris Is Burning’, Jennie Livingston’s definitive guide to the culture’s golden era in the mid-to-late 80s. The film is short and stylishly composed, with some incredible footage of the drag balls and plenty of invaluable, now-vintage shots of downtown New York City.
Despite being released in 1990, ‘Paris Is Burning’ is still easy to revisit, and relevant as ever. Rather than being a music documentary in the most pure and historical sense, Livingston uses the small ballroom community to tackle wider subjects in the larger world outside, such as race, gender and class.
With that said, it’s worth noting that the film is also very, very entertaining. This is mostly down to Livingston’s choice of interview subjects, but the film’s aesthetic values mustn’t be overlooked – the sequencing of shots and the punctuative title cards imbue it with a rhythm most straightforward music documentaries lack.