Throwback Thursday: Paris is Burning

Welcome to the ball! Director Jennie Livingston‘s award-winning and sensationally entertaining 1990 classic Paris is Burning introduced us to the drag balls of Harlem and we’re eternally grateful.

Voguing, at the time, was an underground form of dance created and perfected by the African-American and Latino gay communities. It burst onto the scene when Madonna took voguing for herself and popularized it. But with Paris is Burning, we also got to meet the originators of the form.

This landmark documentary provides a vibrant snapshot of the 1980s through the eyes of New York City’s African American and Latinx Harlem drag-ball scene. Made over seven years, Paris is Burning offers an intimate portrait of rival fashion “houses,” from fierce contests for trophies to house mothers offering sustenance in a world rampant with homophobia, transphobia, racism, AIDS, and poverty. Featuring legendary voguers, drag queens, and trans women – including Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey, and Venus XtravaganzaParis is Burning brings it, celebrating the joy of movement, the force of eloquence, and the draw of community.

Though it was snubbed at the Oscars after it was released, the film has come to define a generation. Madonna herself financed the film out of limbo and made sure it got a proper home video release at the time. Now, The Criterion Collection will be offering a restored special edition!

Paris is Burning was restored by the UCLA Film & Television Archive in conjunction with Sundance Institute and Outfest UCLA Legacy Project. Preservation was funded by Sundance Institute, Outfest, and the Andrew J. Kuehn Jr. Foundation. The special features include a new 2K digital restoration, supervised by director Jennie Livingston, with uncompressed monaural soundtrack on the Blu-ray; a new conversation between Livingston, ball community members Sol Pendavis and Freddie Pendavis, and filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris; over an hour of never-before-seen outtakes; audio commentary from 2005, featuring Livingston, ball community members Freddie Pendavis and Willi Ninja, and film editor Jonathan Oppenheim; and much, much more.

Watch the trailer for the film recent re-release below and click here to pre-order your copy. The Criterion Collection edition is coming to DVD and Blu-ray in February.

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