Paris is Burning

1990 | LGBTQ/Documentary | In English | 78 minutes



This extraordinary documentary chronicles the elaborately-structured ball culture in which African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender contestants compete. Like fashion models, they “walk” the runways displaying their dance talent, their colorful clothing, and the “realness” of their drag costumes. Interspersed with the shows are interviews with the major participants. Ball contestants who win many trophies earn legendary status. Producer/director Jennie Livingston spent six years in New York filming Paris Is Burning. The result is a cult masterpiece that reveals the Golden Age of New York City drag balls with  thoughtful insights of how  these participants deal with rejection by their families and most of society. 

Major Participants
Willi Ninja / Dorian Corey / Venus / Danny Xtravaganza / Junior Labeija / Octavia St. Laurent
Why Stream This Film?
In an interview, producer/director Jennie Livingston explained why she made this documentary: “I stepped into a community where people were geniuses at becoming themselves, geniuses at using words and far beyond brilliant at using dance forms to express themselves. Their self-invention was  a complex cultural commentary. It questioned what America is and proved the political power of creating identity.”
  • Rotten Tomatoes Score (Critics Consensus): 100
  • Berlin International Film Festival: Teddy Award for Best Documentary Film
  • Sundance Film Festival: Grand Jury Prize Documentary
  • Los Angeles Film Critics Association: Best Documentary
  • New York Film Critics Circle Awards: Best Documentary
  • Seattle International Film Festival: Golden Space Needle Award, Best Documentary
  • The film was selected for preservation in the United States National Film Registry by the Library of Congress as being “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.”

Now streaming on:

PARIS IS BURNING  documents a world that was secret until the dance style called ‘voguing’ moved out of the balls and into the more daring of the mainstream clubs. Voguing is, first of all, a highly developed form of expression in which the dancers combine the typical poses of a Vogue model with dance moves and body positions inspired by Egyptian hieroglyphics, to create pantomimes in which stories are told and statements are made.
Roger Ebert

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

Jennie Livingston’s exuberant and loving documentary is both a celebration and a canny commentary. Delving into the dance poses and acrobatic moves of black and Latino gay men, she enters this highly ritualized subculture with a genuine sense of curiosity and discovery, and is wise enough to let the participants themselves do most of the explaining.
Jonathan Rosenbaum

The Chicago Reader

Michael Collins 

Michael Collins 

The major part of the Irish War of Independence takes place from 1919 to 1921, between the Irish Republican Army (IRA) headed by Michael Collins and Éamon de Valera, and the British Army…

read more


Advocate is a film about Israeli human-rights lawyer Lea Tsemel as she tirelessly navigates through Israel’s judicial system defending Palestinian prisoners…

read more
All In: The Fight for Democracy

All In: The Fight for Democracy

This searing documentary traces the origins and history of voter suppression in American political history. We no longer require voters to pass incomprehensible literacy tests or pay poll taxes…

read more

If you found this site helpful, please recommend it to a friend. We also welcome your comments. / call 917-439-3364

P.O. Box 20038
New York, N.Y. 10075


Submit a Comment

Your email address will not be published.

Get weekly streaming recommendations delivered directly to your inbox

Kanbar Recommends—join our free mailing list to receive weekly selections of the best TV shows and movies available.

You have Successfully Subscribed!