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Performing Arts History & Criticism

Paris Is Burning

A Queer Film Classic

by (author) Lucas Hilderbrand

series edited by Thomas Waugh & Matthew Hays

Arsenal Pulp Press
Initial publish date
Nov 2013
History & Criticism, Gender Studies, Gay Studies
  • Paperback / softback

    Publish Date
    Nov 2013
    List Price

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A Queer Film Classic on the stunning 1991 documentary about the drag subculture in 1980s New York.

This latest addition to the Queer Film Classics series is an homage to Paris Is Burning, Jennie Livingston's brilliant and award-winning 1991 documentary that captures the energy, ambition, wit, and struggle of African-American and Latino participants in the 1980s New York drag ball scene. An unlikely hit when it was first released, the film is a lively, touchingly empathetic portrait of urban drag culture, introducing such performers as Willi Ninja, Pepper LaBeija, and Angie Xtravaganza. Paris is Burning generated enthusiastic buzz from audiences and critics, as well as impassioned debate: did the film present a subversive perspective on the crass values of the 1980s, or did it exploit its subjects and pander to privileged movie audiences? Regardless, the film is considered one of the key films of the New Queer Cinema, and resonates with audiences to this day.

Author Lucas Hilderbrand contextualizes the film within the longer history of drag balls, the practices of documentary, the fervor of the culture wars, and issues of gender, sexuality, race, and class.

QUEER FILM CLASSICS is a critically acclaimed book series that launched in 2009, edited by Thomas Waugh and Matthew Hays, covering some of the most important and influential films about and/or by LBTQ people made between 1950 and 2005, and written by leading LGBTQ film scholars and critics.

About the authors

Lucas Hilderbrand is associate professor of film and media studies and queer studies at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of Paris Is Burning: A Queer Film Classic (Arsenal Pulp Press, 2013) and Inherent Vice: Bootleg Histories of Videotape and Copyright as well as numerous essays on queer media histories. He is currently researching a book on the history of gay bars in the US. He lives in Los Angeles.

Lucas Hilderbrand's profile page

Thomas Waugh is the award-winning author or co-author of numerous books, including five for Arsenal Pulp Press: Out/Lines, Lust Unearthed, Montreal Main: A Queer Film Classic (with Jason Garrison), Comin' At Ya! (with David L. Chapman) and Gay Art: A Historic Collection (with Felix Lance Falkon). His other books include Hard to Imagine, The Fruit Machine, and The Romance of Transgression. He teaches film studies at Concordia University in Montreal, Canada, where he lives. He has published widely on political discourses and sexual representation in film and video, on lesbian and gay film and video, and has more recently undertaken interdisciplinary research and teaching on AIDS. He is also the founder and former coordinator of the Minor Programme in Interdisciplinary Studies in Sexuality at Concordia.

In addition to the titles below, Thomas is also co-editor (with Matthew Hays) of the Queer Film Classics series.

Thomas Waugh's profile page

Matthew Hays is a Montreal-based critic, author, film festival programmer, and university instructor. He is the co-editor (with Thomas Waugh) of Arsenal Pulp's Queer Film Classics series. He has been a film critic and reporter for the weekly Montreal Mirror since 1993. His first book, The View from Here: Conversations with Gay and Lesbian Filmmakers (Arsenal Pulp Press), was cited by Quill & Quire as one of the best books of 2007 and won a 2008 Lambda Literary Award. His articles have appeared in a broad range of publications, including The Guardian, The Daily Beast, The Globe and Mail, The New York Times, Vice, The Walrus, The Advocate, The Toronto Star, The International Herald Tribune, Cineaste, Cineaction, Quill & Quire, This Magazine, The Hollywood Reporter, Canadian Screenwriter, and Xtra!. He teaches courses in journalism, communication studies and film studies at Concordia University, where he received his MA in communication studies in 2000. A two-time nominee for a National Magazine Award, Hays received the 2013 Concordia President's Award for Teaching Excellence. .
Matthew is also co-editor (with Thomas Waugh) of the Queer Film Classics series.

Matthew Hays' profile page

Editorial Reviews

Hilderbrand embraces the rich cultural text with signature breadth and an impassioned personal narrative. -Lambda Literary

Lambda Literary

Hilderbrand ... examines the film's legacy, documents its production and subsequent theatrical release in 1991, and reconciles his own feelings with its contested place in academic debates. The author's compact history is dense with intertextual references. ... Hilderbrand does an admirable job of placing the film in conversation with contemporaneous works ... and recent films that show its influence ... This book is both a worthy teaching tool and an in-depth survey for film lovers. -School Library Journal

School Library Journal

Other titles by Thomas Waugh

Other titles by Matthew Hays