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U.S., 1990
Directed by Jennie Livingston
Approx. 78 min. 4K DCP.

The 80s seen through the eyes of NYC’s African American and Latinx Harlem drag ball scene, an intimate portrait of rival fashion “houses,” from fierce contests for trophies, to house mothers offering sustenance in a world rampant with homophobia, racism, AIDS, and poverty. Featuring legendary voguers, drag queens, and trans women including Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey, and Venus Xtravaganza. Made by Livingston over seven years, PARIS IS BURNING premiered at Film Forum in 1991 for a blockbuster 6-month run.

With support from The R.G. Rifkind Foundation Fund for Queer Cinema


“Introduced audiences to a vibrant subculture where queer people of color were taking drag to new creative heights, and being celebrated for every glamorous display.”
– Mekado Murphy, The New York Times

“Seeing her documentary as soon as possible means you can spend the rest of your life having its sense of humanity amuse, surprise and devastate you, over and over.”
– Wesley Morris, The New York Times

“Queer culture’s revenge on the world that surrounds and excludes it.”
Time Out

“Combines drama, sociology, culture and history into a powerful, passionate and entertaining package… Livingston fleshes out not just the cultural facts of the ball scene and its attitudes but, more significantly, the struggle for survival at its roots.”
– Karl Soehnlein, Out Week

“Loaded with ironies of the sort that encourage heavy-duty sociological analysis, because virtually every aspect of this community of underdogs imitates some perceived value of the white middle-class heterosexual society from which they feel excluded.”
– Terrence Rafferty, The New Yorker

“Zeroing in on an obscure and outré corner of a subculture, Livingston’s film ends up shedding an extraordinary light on American culture as a whole.”
– David Ansen, Newsweek

“A politically astute, historically important document of our precarious times.”
– Michelle Parkerson, The Black Film Review

Film Forum