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Paris is Burning (1991) depicts a New York fashion subculture. Shot in the late 1980s, the film examines how a community of Black and Latino gay and transgender New Yorkers build sustenance, creativity, and family. Exploring ballroom culture – and defining and re-defining words like “house,” “mother,” “shade” “voguing” and “Realness” – Paris is Burning draws a series of incisive character portraits. The movie writes a complex essay on class, race, identity, and the transformative powers of dance and performance. 

The Criterion Collection/Janus Films is the film's new North American distributor. To arrange a screening in the US or Canada, please email:
For rights elsewhere:

Paris is Burning is streaming on the Criterion Channel and available on DVD and BluRay from the Criterion Collection.


This 2K restoration is accompanied by extras including two hours of never-before-seen outtakes; a roundtable with Sol Pendavis and Freddie Pendavis (AKA Dr Sol Williams and Skylar King), and Jennie Livingston, moderated by filmmaker Thomas Allen Harris; essay by filmmaker Michelle Parkerson; reprint of essay with poet Essex Hemphill; interview with house mother Gisele Xtravaganza; interview with filmmaker/film critic Jenni Olson, and more.

Watch the trailer below...

Awards, Accolades, and Celebrations

Upon its release in 1990, Paris is Burning received wide critical acclaim and numerous awards throughout the world, including...
Sundance Film Festival - Grand Jury Prize 

Berlin International Film Festival's Teddy Award - Best Documentary

International Documentary Association - IDA Award

Paris is Burning won the Best Documentary award from critics groups including:
New York Film Critics Circle
Los Angeles Film Critics Association
Boston Society of Film Critics
National Society of Film Critics
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Paris is Burning continues to receive recognition for its cultural, artistic and historical impact. Its influence can be felt in film, music, theater, cultural studies, and politics.
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In 2016, Paris is Burning was one of 25 films added to National Film Registry of The Library of Congress, as a significant contribution to the "range and diversity of American film heritage." 

24 years after its Sundance premiere, Paris is Burning returned to the Sundance Film Festival in 2015 as a Sundance Collection screening, with a brand new digital print, restoring its original aspect ratio.

Photo credit: Michel Comte

Paris is Burning received the 2015 Legacy Award from the Cinema Eye Honors for Nonfiction Filmmaking, a year after making the organization's The Influentials list. 


Pictured left to right: Paris is Burning stars Freddie Pendavis and Junior LaBeija, director Jennie Livingston and editor Jonathan Oppenheim

On June 26th 2015, there was a screening of Paris is Burning featuring a Houses United Ball in Prospect Park, Brooklyn as part of BRIC's Celebrate Brooklyn!

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Photos by David Andrako

New York Times critic AO Scott listed Paris is Burning as one of his ten best films of all time.

Lucas Hilderbrand literally wrote the book on Paris is Burning

On New York Magazine’s 40th-anniversary Approval Matrix next to Do the Right Right Thing, and Pauline Kael.

The Washington Post reports Paris is Burning as one of the most assigned films in college courses, falling between Singin’ in the Rain and Apocalypse Now

“a beautiful piece of work—lively, intelligent, exploratory …. Everything about ‘Paris is Burning’ signifies so blatantly and so promiscuously that our formulations – our neatly paired theses and antitheses – multiply faster than we can keep track of them. What’s wonderful about the picture is that Livingston is smart enough not to reduce her subjects to the sum of their possible meanings…”

-Terrence Rafferty

 The New Yorker

“Houses of silk and gabardine are built. Houses of dream and fantasy. Houses that bear the names of their legendary founders…Houses rise and fall. Legends come and go. To pose is to reach for power while simultaneously holding real powerlessness at bay.”

-Essex Hemphill

 The Guardian

“A politically astute, historically important document of our precarious times.”

-Michelle Parkerson

 The Black Film Review

“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.”

-David Ansen


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