If you’ve ever seen Ru Pauls Drag race you’ll have seen numerous references to something called Paris is Burning, mostly when it comes to the ‘reading’ section. I had Google it a few times and found it was a documentary. Lo an behold when we got Netflix I discovered that the documnetary was on there.
It was filmed in 1990 and it’s about the ballroom scene within the New York City gay culture at the time and all the different groups that make up that community. A ball is essentially a competition where contestants are judged in preset categories. They walk a runway representing heir best look and are ranked accordingly. If you’ve ever seen Pose on Foxtel it’s almost exactly like that.Heck, the hall the show is set in is almost identical and some of th characters are very very similar. The film also features interview with heads of prominent ‘Houses’ or families that compete together about what the ballroom scene is like and how their experiences are shaped by the world they live in and their art.
I thought it was great. I learned a whole bunch of stuff that I didn’t know before about other peoples experience of race, culture, identity and those considered at the time to be way outside the norm. I couldn’t identify with a lot of it but it doesn’t mean that I didn’t want to understand what the film was saying. I would say it’s well worth watching even if it’s outside your comfort zone. Just don’t expect it to be all glitter, wigs and fabulousness because it’s a little bit darker than that.