Paris is Burning, which won the Grand Jury Prize at the 1991 Sundance Film Festival, has now been added to the Sundance Collection at UCLA. The Sundance Institute announced the addition last week, more than 20 years after Jennie Livingston’s documentary made its debut at the renowned festival. The Sundance Collection was established in 1987, and is dedicated to preserving “independent documentaries, narratives and short films supported by Sundance Institute.” Now that Paris is Burning is part of this collection, its negatives and other elements will be archived and preserved at the Institute.
With its triumph at Sundance, Paris is Burning brought the history of “voguing” to a wider audience, and in the process, helped humanize the outcast “Children” behind it. The film’s often dark subject matter wasn’t easy for some critics to digest, but Roger Ebert had a dramatically different take:
Beatings, violence and rejection are daily realities for men who want to pass as women, and so there is a certain courage exhibited by their choice. There is also a social commentary. Some of the reviews of “Paris is Burning” have called the movie depressing – because the dancers are pretending to be the kinds of people who would not accept them in real life (“After all,” one person says, “how many gay black males are there in the business executive ranks?”). I was not depressed. What I saw was a successful attempt by the outsiders to dramatize how success and status in the world often depend on props you can buy, or steal, almost anywhere – assuming you have the style to know how to use them.
For more details about the Sundance Collection, click here.