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a time when New York was the center of ballrooms

The 1990 film is one of the greatest icons of gay cinema and represents the beginning of the new queer cinema movement

By Eduardo de Assumpção*

Paris is Burning (USA, 1990)
“The Category is”…”Shade”…, the terms are some of the many immortalized by the fundamental documentary Paris is Burning, which refers to a specific time, where New York was the center of ballrooms, a very particular culture that is the theme of the film, by Jennie Livingston.

The film gives audiences a very real glimpse into what transgender people endure, and although LGBTQIA+ life has improved since its release, most of the discussions in this documentary still ring true in the contemporary world.

The 1990 film is one of the greatest icons of gay cinema and represents the beginning of the new queer cinema movement. The documentary portrays the culture of gay dances in late 1980s Harlem. Her approach opens up discussions about gender, black activism and trans studies.

In Paris is Burning it is possible to get to know the ‘families’ and ‘houses’ that were groups of marginalized gays who came together in a community led by a ‘mother’. We are transported to a time where being gay was taboo and black or Afro-Latin gay people were even worse. These people found in dances a way out of the constraints imposed by society. The dances featured categories where members of each family could escape the harsh reality.

1990 film is one of the biggest icons of gay cinema
The interviews reveal rich personalities like Pepper La Beija who, even in the face of a decadent present, lives in all its complexity attached to the luxury of the past. The testimonies of young people and veterans contextualize the concept of families and dances. Venus Xtravaganza is another personality that stands out in the narrative constructed by the director.

The spectrum that surrounds the film, however, is not glamorous and brings a gloomy atmosphere. At that time, the AIDS epidemic was at its height and although this is not directly addressed in the film, it is very much implied, and present, in that marginalized environment.

Paris is Burning also shows us that Vogue, immortalized by Madonna, began as a dance where queers competed on the dance floor doing faces and poses from the famous magazine. Available on Mubi.

*Eduardo de Assumpção is a journalist and responsible for the blog cinematografiaqueer.blogspot.com

Instagram: @cinematografiaqueer

Twitter: @eduardoirib

By Ezatamentchy

Source: Maxima

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