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Paris is Burning - A Queer Film Classic

by JC Alvarez
Saturday Dec 21, 2013
Paris is Burning - A Queer Film Classic

The groundbreaking documentary "Paris Is Burning" brought to light an aspect of our gay culture that had for many remained subversive and mostly populated the underground clubs. To interpret the language of the ball scene and the legendary children that permeated much of the New York City dance culture, filmmaker Jennie Livingston gave an unbridled life, emphatic heart and personality to many of the artists that inspired the mainstream movement to strike a pose and vogue.

The 1991 "Paris Is Burning" was more than an amply digested mainstream art house film, it resonated with its audience in a way that few films could -- it captured LGBT history in a way that few docu-films were able to celebrate. It spoke to a generation.

In author Lucas Hilderbrand's book from "Queer Film Classics", the author places his own experience in the context of the film's overall place in cinematic history, and in exhaustive detail looks at the production from its many angles. The book offers a detailed synopsis of the full-length feature, a documentary that gave us indelible looks at the film's stars, including legendary house mothers Pepper Labeija, Paris Dupree, Willi Ninja and the Xtravaganzas -- many of whom are no longer with us -- and revealed them in all their passion.

Hilderbrand serves to remind us that this is our gay history in its most unfiltered form and, like the author describes best, it is a celebration -- love is the message. It is with great love that we are given "Queer Film Classics: Paris Is Burning," a delicate and detailed look at the ball scene, its population and what it all meant to the fabric of New York City's club culture. Although it ends with some sad moments, the cathartic hope of the documentary is not lost on the author, preserving it for readers to indulge themselves in.

Native New Yorker JC Alvarez is a pop-culture enthusiast and the nightlife chronicler of the club scene and its celebrity denizens from coast-to-coast. He is the on-air host of the nationally syndicated radio show "Out Loud & Live!" and is also on the panel of the local-access talk show "Talking About".


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