It’s been 25 years since audiences were first introduced to the Ballroom scene in New York City thanks to the iconic documentary “Paris Is Burning” and Madonna’s hit single “Vogue.”
Swedish filmmaker Sara Jordeno co-directed this remarkable documentary over the course of four years along with Twiggy Pucci Garcon, one of the film’s subjects.
For the uninitiated, the world of Ballroom dances in New York is comprised mostly of queer youth of color. Many, especially the trans kids, have been rejected and kicked out by their families. As one of the dancers in the film says, “When you’re one-of-a-kind, you get targeted.”
In this world of drag balls, there are “houses” which are teams and “house mothers” who are the team captains. They are responsible for keeping their houses in line and help to become the parents that many of the kids have never had.
The Kiki scene is an antidote to heteronormative society and while this modern iteration has already been around for about fifteen years, it’s nothing new. You can trace its roots back to the 1920s and 30s balls in Harlem.
This film literally pulsates with the rhythm of the music (from DJ collective Qween Beat) and the spirit of its young subjects. For many, it provides a glimpse into an underground world that they may have had a slight awareness of, but really didn’t understand.
For every kid whose only support system is their Kiki house, there are parents shown who do accept and love their children, who still need the outlet of the Ballroom scene to survive and spend time with other kids who are like them. Of her transgender daughter, one mother simply says, “I accept it. I think she’s sexy, just like me.”
“Kiki” is the best party of the year, but it also manages to shatter preconceived notions about gender, race, and sexuality.
“Kiki” screened as the Closing Night feature at this year’s AGLIFF. It was recently acquired by Sundance Selects/IFC who are expected to release the film next year.