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4.7 out of 5 stars
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4.7 out of 5 stars
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on 4 June 2009
I saw repeated clips of this documentary while dancing on Sunday nights at Horsemeat Disco in South London, and made my mind up to find and watch the film. I'm so glad I did.

PIB provides us with painfully honest insight into the lives of the poor, largely black, gay, disenchanted New York youths who relied on the Harlem drag ball culture for their only source of personal and socio-familial identities. Through belonging to the various cultural 'Houses', these kids (some shockingly young) found a place where they could be themselves and celebrate their sexual, social and racial identities without fear. Bold and beautiful if home spun, the Balls they attended were a life focus for many of the youth featured in the film.

Rivalry and passion are all there in this subcultural exposé, but unlike their straight counterparts on New York's streets, these gay kids used dance to air their differences and settled for being 'out-shaded' as a means to calm bad air or disputes. Theatrically utopian as it may sound, would that modern day gang members would resort to such non-lethal means as dance to settle grudges!

PIB is as much about inspiration and dreams as it is about the hottest dance movement ever to collide with this world. When voguing, these kids can become the stars they so desperately want to be. There are no economic or social barriers in dreamland, which is where their dancing takes them, as individuals and as a group. To see this astounding aspirational narrative played out is at once a privilege and a sad indictment of America's inclination to negate her forgotten youth.

With many of the film's main protagonists working as hustlers and prostitutes to survive, it is ruinously ironic that a rudimentary internet search reveals how the 'families' in the film have been decimated by AIDS. What the film displays in rude definition is that dreams and fantasies can only provide a limited protection and that too much dreaming can be as dangerous as none.

It is hurtful and deeply disturbing to know that such young, vibrant, creative and beautiful individuals are gone. What is doubtless is that the Paris they created has scorched its indelible mark on the cultural subconscious of the modern world - a fact which would plainly thrill all the mothers and children of every House, living and dead.

If Paris truly burned, the epicentre of it's heat would be a drag ball in Harlem.

Burn, baby...burn!
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on 8 June 2009
Subculture? How sub do you want it? PiB allows the viewer an insight into the hidden world of the 'ball' - a form of predominantly Black and Latino gay male performance art consisting of a combination of fashion show, dance off, and battle of wits.

Our cast of characters inhabit a twilight world of hustling and hanging out, and often find that their companions in the world of the ball provide more of a family than the one most of them have left behind.

Life's not easy when you're young, poor and gay in 1980's New York, and Paris is Burning proves that the most exciting cultural moments are often the product of adversity.

Beg, steal or borrow your party gear, and let's have a ball!
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on 10 October 2009
a classic movie , a must for any gay men or simply for anybody curious to see how people were leaving in the poor areas of new york and how they were able to reinvent themselves in order to escape from 3 of the worst nightmares of wasp america..being gay being black and being poor.the glamourisation and the efforts put together by these people in order to live the dream or simply enjoying the moment or escaping from dreadful family situations is still inspiring 20 years after this was filmed.in case anybody has seen strictly ballroom by baz luhrmann ( moulin rouge ,romeo and juliet )please remember this came first.and for the madonna fans do notice that the vogue movements the posing and all the rest was in a certain way stolen from these people...
enjoyable ,lively, full of sense of humour and in some moments deeply touching...as relevant today as it was 20 years ago.
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on 23 December 2014
If you're a fan of Rupaul's Drag Race and all things drag, then this is an essential encyclopaedia of all things drag. A fascinating insight into the history of this art form. Gritty and sad in parts, but always delivered with utmost style and plenty of shade!
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on 13 June 2009
Jennie Livingstone's documentary about drag queens in New York in the late 80's is a beautiful, intelligent and inspiring piece of work. Depicting the world of the "ball", these parties where black and latino gay men used to act out catwalk fantasies and parody the absurdities of contemporary american culture. The film is populated by extraordinary characters, for their flamboyance, but also wisdom and wonderful sense of humour. Some of the lives depicted tell stories of hardship, and are sometimes very sad and touching, but the documentary never veer into mawkishness, thanks to the defiantly triumphant attitude of its protagonists. The filmmaker allows its characters to retain some mystery. Special mention for the supremely funky music, the documentray captures the sweet sounds of that period's disco, R&B and early house. A very special document. Essential viewing
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on 16 May 2012
This is the master piece of the documentation of NY club culture in 1990, directed by Jennie Livingston. I have come a cross so many 'fashionista' and 'club kids' these-days in the night scene in London. They posed themselves as 'original and new' and think they are different to others. But then, how many of these young fashionista actually understand about its history of club culture and being dressing up or what mean by being a Drag? The film shot in the mid to late 1980's, 'documentary of the end of the "Golden Age" of New York City drag balls, as well as a thoughtful exploration of race, class, and gender in America.' This film capture meanings by club culture, Drag, and the 'Houses' system which is a group of young gay mens that individually live in their difficult situation and the time of being gay in those days.
It is not only about the gay culture or club kids, but it is an illustration of the individual's life in documentary style.

I suggest anyone who involved with club industries and fashion to look at even its gay or not. Its all about the ways of surviving that someone had to get through.
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on 8 October 2012
This documentary is fantastic, it provides real insight into the gay subculture of the time, into the birth of vouging, and how popular terms and shows like RuPauls Drag Race REALLY began. It makes everything make sence!

Fantastic film, LEGENDARY people, just amazing.
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on 10 June 2010
A fascinating documentary about the life and times of real people set around the ball and vogue culture of the black/latino gay community during the mid eighties in New York. It's a piece of film history that really captures the audience and features the late Willi Ninja, who later went on to star in Malcolm McLaren's 'Waltz Darling' and 'Deep In Vogue' videos. A must see for anyone interested in dance history and gay/transgender issues.
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on 6 April 2014
Delivered very quickly. I wasN't sure what to expect but I was a little disappointed as it was a bit monotonous. Best bit was how the Madonna Vogue video and dance was made popular. Full of interesting characters.
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on 19 March 2013
What an amazing film. Funny, interesting, moving and beautiful. A glimpse into the gay scene in New York, a bit of social history into how a sub group protect themselves, develop their own culture and the prejudice and violence they can encounter.
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