Monday, March 3, 2014

Movie of the Month: Paris is Burning

While everyone celebrates the triumph of Jared Leto's Oscar win for his character Rayon from Dallas Buyers Club, we look at the scene Rayon would or could have been involved in had that character been based in New York instead of Dallas at that time. The 1990 documentary, Paris is Burning showed the underground ball culture of New York City and the African-American, Latino, gay, and transgender communities that were involved in it. The film follows the women as they get ready for the balls from everything from costumes they pick out, make-up, how they walk and learn to strut on the catwalk, but also explores the personal level the people involved faced on a daily basis. The film may center around a fabulous and glamourous life, but outside of the balls, it was anything but. Most of the characters dealt with issues of racism, homophobia, AIDS and poverty, and broken families, as they find their identity with who they are sexually and personally. The film by Jennie Livingston explores the days of what some consider to be New York's final "Golden Era" and in an era when AIDS was still an unknown disease and gay rights were not going to be heard about in the mainstream media, this important film gave a voice to the voiceless. Now, 24 years later, as Jared Leto accepts an award for playing a transexual, it shows how far we have come, but how far we still have to go.