Her film depicts an African American and Latino gay and transgender subculture, examining the intersections of race, class, and gender in an image-conscious, wealth-obsessed society. The film's many awards and long-term influence come not only from the wisdom and charisma of the people in it, but from the extent to which the subculture itself elegantly reflects American anxieties about fitting in and measuring up.
Livingston's current work-in-progress is a memoir/essay film that tells the story of how the filmmaker lost four family members in five years. It also recalls a hippie summer camp in the 1970s, the connection being that when we're young, we often want to break away from our families. What happens when they leave us? A meditation on impermanence, Earth Camp One unifies first-person storytelling, cultural and historical commentary, humor, and animation to explore how it is to live in a world where everything and everyone disappears.
The digital short commissioned by WNET-TV for the 10th anniversary of Reel New York, focuses on a group of dog-walkers who tried to save a man who fell through the ice on the lake in Prospect Park, Brooklyn. It was broadcast on WNET and screened at Sundance in 2006.
At their core, Jennie Livingston's films are about what sustains us in the face of the structures and obstacles that limit and confine us.
Paris Is Burning won a Sundance Grand Jury Prize, Best Documentary from the New York, LA, and National Film Critics' Association, an Audience Award from the Seattle International Film Festival, and a Teddy Bear from the Berlinale. It's also one of the top-performing documentaries in the history of the medium, was the Sundance Collection screening at the 2015 Sundance Film Festival, and in 2016 it was included in the Film Registry at the Library of Congress with 24 other films including Thelma and Louise, The Lion King, and The Birds.
In addition to directing and producing her own films, she's a writer, photographer, draftsman, educator, and director for hire.
Jennie Livingston is a groundbreaking filmmaker, known for her lively storytelling, nuanced character portraits, and thoughtful explorations of identity, class, race, death, sex, and gender. She works in both fiction and nonfiction.
The dramatic short translates a topic that frequently makes people uncomfortable (kinky sex) into a form that's all about joy and ease (Broadway musicals). Who's the Top? premiered at the Berlinale and has made its way around the world, including extended runs at Boston's MFA and London's ICA.
Jennie's taught at Yale, Connecticut College, and Brooklyn College, lectured widely, written for national magazines, and appeared as a subject or speaker in a number of documentaries and cultural programs. Livingston has been a recipient of grants and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, the German Academic Exchange, the MacDowell Colony, The Newhouse Foundation, the Rosenthal Family Foundation, The Getty Center, and others.