Screening Room

This amazing rediscovered documentary shows the vogue scene before “Paris Is Burning”

Most students of queer cinema know the shockingly revelatory documentary Paris is Burning (and if you don’t, we lecture you!). The film shed a new kind of light on the fabulous underground queer culture scene, provided some context for the creation of “vogue” dancing, and hinted at the mainstream popularity of drag culture to come.

The recent documentary Kiki covers similarly groundbreaking ground.

Now the San Francisco-based cinema foundation Frameline has come across a mini-documentary on the New York ball scene that actually predates Paris is Burning. Entitled NYC Balls: Voguing and Realness, the short film depicts the House of Omni ball of 1988, and features a rare look at the early glamstravaganza.

The film opens up a brief window into a time when AIDS and bigotry kept queer culture underground, and when the gay community banded together for camaraderie and fabulousness and fierce fighting back. It also supplies some important insight into how people of color, specifically African American and Latino people, played a key role in the evolution of queer culture, and pop culture as a whole–credit where credit is due, a bulwark against cultural appropriation.

Frameline has made the film viewable for free on YouTube: