The award-winning PARIS IS BURNING has been igniting audiences and critics across the country and all over the world with record-breaking box office performances. An unblinking behind-the-scenes story of fashion-obsessed New Yorkers who created "voguing" and drag balls, and turned these raucous celebrations into a powerful expression of fierce personal pride. This world-within-a-world is instantly familiar, filled with ambitions, desires, and yearnings that reflect America itself. Paris Is Burning is an intimate portrait of one urban community, a world in which the allure of high fashion, status, and wealth becomes an affirmation of love, acceptance, and joy.
Fascinating, discomfiting, and poignant (sometimes all at once), Paris Is Burning
documents New York City's recherché "ball" circuit, where members of the black and Latino gay, transvestite, and transsexual communities compete to see who can wear the most outlandish outfits and dance, pose, and generally show off to most outrageous effect. These are folks who live with a double whammy of discrimination, as they are minorities both sexually and racially. But while their tales of rejection by both society and their own families are woeful and bitter, the participants come alive when they hit the "runway" (actually the floor of some old gymnasium) to strut their stuff, liberated from the pressure of blending in with the mainstream. "Whatever you want to be, you be," says one, whether it's a school kid, a country club polo player, a high-rent executive, a character from television's Dynasty
(which for some represents the dernier cri
in elegance and wealth)
anything goes. Along the way, we meet characters with names like Pepper Labeija, Venus Xtravaganza, and Willi Ninja; we also learn about "reading" (i.e., dissing your competitors), "shading" (a more subtle, non-verbal version of the same thing), and "voguing" (later adopted by Madonna, it combines the poses and haughty looks of your average supermodel). Critics at the time of the film's original 1990 release tended to focus on the sadness and not-so-quiet desperation of these people's efforts to transcend their circumstances and become one-night legends, but overall, Paris Is Burning
comes across as simply a damn good time. --Sam Graham