Thursday, July 21
Directed by Sara Jordenö
Walker Cinema, 7 pm, Free
“It’s a kaleidoscopic and vivid rendering of a world that is larger than life, flamboyant but ultimately fragiles.” – The Guardian
Swedish-director Sara Jordenö’s collaboration with advocate and performer Twiggy Pucci Garcon is an exhilarating depiction of New York’s kiki ball scene. However, KIKI is also a tender examination of its subjects’ lives outside the ballroom and draws attention to the poverty, discrimination, and homelessness that disproportionately impact queer youth of color. 2016, DCP, 93 minutes.
Post-screening discussion with director Sara Jordenö and performer Gia Marie Love, moderated by Elliot H. Powell (Assistant Professor, American Studies University of Minnesota).
The Walker’s Cinema of Urgency series is programmed in partnership with Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, an annual event in Durham, North Carolina that is dedicated to the presentation of contemporary nonfiction cinema.
In New York City, LGBTQ youth-of-color gather out on the Christopher Street Pier, practicing a performance-based artform, Ballroom, which was made famous in the early 1990s by Madonna’s music video “Vogue” and the documentary “Paris Is Burning.” Twenty-five years after these cultural touchstones, a new and very different generation of LGBTQ youth have formed an artistic activist subculture, named the Kiki Scene.
KIKI follows seven characters from the Kiki community over the course of four years, using their preparations and spectacular performances at events known as Kiki balls as a framing device while delving into their battles with homelessness, illness and prejudice as well as their gains towards political influence and the conquering of affirming gender-expressions. In KIKI we meet Twiggy Pucci Garçon, the founder and gatekeeper for the Haus of Pucci, Chi Chi, Gia, Chris, Divo, Symba and Zariya. Each of these remarkable young people represents a unique and powerful personal story, illuminating the Kiki scene in particular, as well as queer life in the U.S. for LGBTQ youth-of-color as a whole.
The spectacular Kiki balls, a consistent component of the Kiki subculture, offer performers a safe and empowered space to enact various modes of gender expression, including a stylized femininity that, if executed in the communities in which they grew up in, could provoke ridicule and violence. Kiki scene-members range in age from young teens to 20’s, and many have been thrown out of their homes by their families or otherwise find themselves on the streets. As LGBTQ people-of-color, they constitute a minority within a minority. An alarming 50% of these young people are HIV positive. The Kiki scene was created within the LGBTQ youth-of- color community as a peer-led group offering alternative family systems (“houses”), HIV awareness teaching and testing, and performances geared towards self-agency. The scene has evolved into an important (and ever-growing) organization with governing rules, leaders and teams, now numbering hundreds of members in New York and across the U.S and Canada. Run by LGBTQ youth for LGBTQ youth, it draws strategies from the Civil Rights, Gay Rights and Black Power movements.
In this film collaboration between Kiki gatekeeper, Twiggy Pucci Garçon, and Swedish filmmaker Sara Jordenö, viewers are granted exclusive access into this high-stakes world, where fierce Ballroom competitions serve as a gateway into conversations surrounding Black-and Trans-Lives Matter movements. This new generation of Ballroom youth use the motto, “Not About Us Without Us,” and KIKI in kind has been made with extensive support and trust from the community, including an exhilarating score by renowned Ballroom and Voguing Producer Collective Qween Beat. Twiggy and Sara’s insider-outsider approach to their stories breathes fresh life into the representation of a marginalized community who demand visibility and real political power.
MANOHLA DARGIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES
“Other titles that deserve to move off the festival circuit and into theaters include Kiki, a contact high of a documentary about New York vogueing that revisits the ballroom scene made famous by Jennie Livingston’s Paris is Burning, which won the grand jury prize at Sundance in 1991. Directed by Sara Jordeno, Kiki fluidly combines interviews with on-the-street and dance-floor scenes to create an exhilarating, multifaceted portrait of ballroom participants, a number of whom are L.G.B.T. activists. Kiki is also an indelible, must-see ode to gay New York.
KENNETH TURAN, LOS ANGELES TIMES
“Wonderfully alive and emotional.”
LANRE BAKARE, THE GUARDIAN
“A complex documentary. It’s a kaleidoscopic and vivid rendering of a world that is larger than life, flamboyant but ultimately fragile. It’s an ultimately uplifting film and one that doesn’t patronise or placate: the ballroom is shown for what it is, complex, flamboyant and a place to express yourself.”
AMY TAUBIN, FILM COMMENT
“Twist arms to get to the premiere public screening and the dance after-party at the Kickstarter headquarters on Main Street. Kiki, which will be compared to 1991 Sundance prize-winner Jennie Livingston’s Paris Is Burning, is a far more optimistic movie, thanks to its hugely talented and accomplished featured performers, poets and writers, and political activists.”
RICHARD LAWSON, VANITY FAIR
“A joyous, genuinely inspiring documentary about the current ball culture in New York City, Kiki is in many ways an update of the seminal 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning. But there is something more hopeful about Sara Jordenö’s new film, which takes place at a time when great strides have been made in gay visibility, when protests against racism are happening across the nation, and when the needle seems to finally be moving on trans awareness. There is an undercurrent of righteous anger running through Kiki, especially at the way these people’s lives are often marginalized so the more mainstream gay-rights movement can focus on marriage between affluent white men. But Kiki is not a polemic. It’s a spirited, funny, touching portrait of some seriously smart, creative, and defiant young people. The film makes you feel good about the future, which is pretty hard to do these days.”