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Why ‘Paris is Burning’ matters just as much now as it did in the ’90s

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When Paris is Burning premiered at Sundance in 1990, the film was hailed as “poignant and profound” and a “passionately empathetic piece of documentary filmmaking.”

Director Jennie Livingston’s keen observance of New York City’s ballroom scene—and the black and brown queer and trans performers who shaped it—brought a subculture to the forefront of the mainstream. Stars of Paris is Burning appeared on The Joan Rivers Show. Straight America suddenly realized Madonna didn’t invent vogueing. The film would eventually be added to the Library of Congress’s National Film Registry as “culturally, historically, or aesthetically significant.” But most important, the often-shunted community of the ballroom—marginalized even within the larger LGBTQ community by the rich and/or white elements within it—were gaining visibility and recognition for an art form that significantly influenced culture as a whole and that shows no signs of fading today.

Paris is Burning is being re-released in theaters this month, coinciding with New York City hosting World Pride, the 50th anniversary of the Stonewall riots, and the return of Pose, FX’s critically acclaimed and groundbreaking drama heavily inspired by Paris is Burning. With the spotlight shining particularly bright on LGBTQ culture, Fast Company spoke with Livingston about why the film is just as relevant today and who’s allowed to tell what stories.

Having graduated from Yale where she studied photography and art, Livingston decided to move to NYC in 1985, taking up film at NYU. While strolling through Washington Square Park, she happened........

© Fast Company