Paris Is Burning Reviews
The film casts the spotlight on a selection of big personalities and influential characters from that scene, with the central focus being the infamous "balls" that were thrown to show off the best outfits and emulations of a range of categories of drag. Despite the extremely fabulous modelling, dancing and general attitudes of the featured individuals, the overriding narrative is melancholy; these were people who felt like outcasts with no future and little hope, making the best of what they had and finding comfort and support in their community.
In the years immediately after the film came out, many of the major 'stars' of the documentary sadly passed away, and one was even tragically murdered whilst filming was still ongoing. The enjoyment of watching the performances and interviews is muted slightly by realising how vulnerable they were, and I can understand why a lot of the cast felt quite angry and exploited when the documentary's success failed to improve their own situations.
What is more amusing while watching this film is when you realize that this was shot during the combined 12 years of Ronald Reagan and George H. W. Bush. With the Christian Right's Moral Majority setting the direction of the entire nation, this beautiful subculture persisted and bloomed. 26 years later, heterosexuals have co-opted much of it, making what was once a niche culture mainstream.
"We as a people for the past 400 years is the greatest example of behavior modification in the history of civilization. We have had everything taken away from us and yet we have all learned to survive."
In the age of Donald Trump, "Paris is Burning" is showing us hope will never dim if you keep fighting.