Paris Is Burning, the powerful 1990 documentary about New York's
drag ball culture, is given a fond remembrance in a new series that
celebrates the most provocative and moving modern documentaries.
Director Jennie Livingston recalls her inspiration for the film. "I had stumbled into this community where the base assumption, the reason the balls are there, is this knowledge that we build who we are," she says. "Everything I wanted to say about gender and class and race and sexual orientation and the construction of identity lay within that world."
The episode on Paris Is Burning reveals the sense of community that many gay people who were considered outcasts at the time found in "houses," which weren't actual physical structures but networks of support. Among them are Hector Extravaganza and David Padilla, who appeared in the original documentary. "Your family members didn't accept you if you were gay," Padilla says. "You went to this house and you had a mother and you had a father and they accepted you no matter what."
Others interviewed in the episode include former Advocate editors Alonso Duralde and Anne Stockwell. Morgan Spurlock, the filmmaker responsible for the acclaimed fast-food exposé Super Size Me, hosts the series, titled 50 Documentaries to See Before You Die, which will premiere Tuesday on Current TV.
Watch a clip from the Paris Is Burning episode below.