The New York Times

The ‘Paris is Burning’ director on its message: be yourself

Thirty-four years ago, a young, queer film student stopped to photograph two striking dancers in Washington Square Park in Manhattan and was captivated by their pose-oriented movements — known around the world today as vogueing. The performers encouraged the inspired student, who was eager to see more, to attend an event dedicated to the dance style: a ball.

This exchange was the start of the director Jennie Livingston’s decade-long journey into the queer, working-class, black and brown subculture that revolved around these fierce and fabulous ballroom competitions in New York City. And the result of her curiosity was the critically acclaimed and influential documentary “Paris Is Burning.” Key figures in the scene narrate the film, celebrating the ingenuity of a minority community facing systematic oppression in America.

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