‘Paris Is Burning’ Comes To Sag Harbor Cinema

A scene from “Paris is Burning,” Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary.

The documentary Paris is Burning,” Jennie Livingston’s 1990 pioneering portrait of the New York drag ball culture. comes to Sag Harbor Cinema on January 6, at 7 p.m. The screening will be held in conjunction with The Church’s collaboration with Works & Process at the Guggenheim, hosting Omari Wiles and his company Les Ballet Afrik while they develop “New York is Burning,” a new performance commissioned by Works & Process to honor the 30th anniversary of Livingston’s documentary. This new dance work will premiere at The Solomon R. Guggenheim Museum in the autumn of 2022. Wiles, who stars in season two of HBO Max’s “Legendary,” is the founding father of the House of Oricci and a legend within the ballroom community and will appear at the Sag Harbor Cinema to introduce the film. For more information about Les Ballet Afrik’s current residency at The Church, visit thechurchsagharbor.org/les-ballet-afrik.

From founding mothers of each house to young boys made outcasts because of their sexuality, “Paris is Burning” chronicles seven years of New York ballroom culture of the mid- to late- 1908s. Each profile offers a different perspective and extraordinary detail into the lives of Latinx and Black Harlem youth in a time of extreme prejudice and financial hardship, all worsened by the AIDS epidemic.

“The young, marginalized, defiant, joyously flamboyant culture of urban resistance incarnated by the subjects of the film has now seeped into the mainstream of western pop, with television series such as ‘Pose’ and ‘Legendary,’ on HBO and HBO Max. And yet, 31 years after its original release, ‘Paris Is Burning’ — in the words of film critic J. Hoberman — ‘still feels like a scoop,’’’ says SHC’s artistic director Giulia D’Agnolo Vallan.

Whether it’s throwing shade, feeling read, or serving realness, the impact of the queer community and its ballroom queens has been adapted to the modern vernacular reaching far beyond this tightknit community. As David Ansen of Newsweek noted, “Zeroing in on an obscure and outré corner of a subculture, Livingston’s film ends up shedding an extraordinary light on American culture as a whole.”

A scene from “Paris is Burning,” Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary.

Sag Harbor Cinema, 90 Main Street, Sag Harbor

Thursday, January 6, 7 p.m.

“Paris Is Burning”

Dir. Jennie Livingston

USA, 1990; 78 mins, in English

Where does voguing come from, and what, exactly, is throwing shade? 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 and transphobia, racism, AIDS and poverty. Featuring legendary voguers, drag queens and trans women — including Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey, and Venus Xtravaganza — “Paris Is Burning” brings it, celebrating the joy of movement, the force of eloquence, and the draw of community.

“Paris is Burning” enjoyed a six month blockbuster run at Film Forum in 1991. It has recently been digitally remastered by the UCLA Film and Television Archive, in conjunction with Sundance Institute and Outfest UCLA Legacy Project. Preservation funded by Sundance Institute, Outfest and the Andrew J. Kuehn Jr. Foundation.

Events at The Church, 48 Madison Street, Sag Harbor

Co-organized by Guild Hall and Works & Process:

To further introduce Long Island’s East End to the community captured in “Paris is Burning,” the public is invited to attend community events designed to promote appreciation for artistic process during Les Ballet Afrik’s Works & Process LaunchPAD residency at The Church.

Les Ballet Afrik Open Rehearsal

Saturday, January 8, 11 a.m. to 3 p.m.

Public invited to observe

Mock Ball

Saturday, January 8, 8 to 10 p.m., doors open at 7:30 p.m.

Public invited to participate, categories include “Best Dressed” and “Most Artistic”.

New York Is Burning” public show and tell

Thursday, January 13, 6:30 to 7:30 p.m.
Public invited, $10.

Visit thechurchsagharbor.org for details.