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Paris is Burning (1990)

Incredibly moving, energetic, and full of hard truths, this documentary explores the underground world of New York City’s ball culture in the 1980s. The film captures the lives of queer and black trans/trans people of color as they compete in drag competitions known as balls.

Beautifully portraying the community’s fierce determination to break free from societal oppression, and its celebration of creativity, fashion, and self-expression. The film’s incredible soundtrack, featuring music from Grace Jones and other iconic performers, only adds to the excitement and energy of the balls.

However, it is important to acknowledge the controversy surrounding the filmmakers not paying the subjects of the documentary. Many of the individuals who appeared in the film were struggling financially and may have benefited from compensation for their participation. The debate around the issue of exploitation in documentary filmmaking is an ongoing one, and while “Paris is Burning” has faced criticism for this issue, it remains a groundbreaking film in its portrayal of marginalized communities.

Despite this controversy, this documentary remains a must-see for anyone interested in LGBTQ+ history and culture. The film is a poignant reminder of the bravery and resilience of queer and black trans people in the face of discrimination and adversity. It is a timeless classic that continues to inspire and educate today.


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