This beautifully compelling documentary from Swedish director and visual artist Sara Jordenö takes a fresh look at the New York ballroom dance scene, focusing upon the Kiki, an energetic and vibrant movement led by young LGBTQ people of colour. We witness breathtaking performances of voguing (a dance whose origins lie in 1980s Harlem), showcased at competitions and public spaces like Christopher Street Pier, accompanied by a snappy and uplifting soundtrack from the dance collective Qween Beats. The Houses of Kiki never fail to put on a good show, but the main focus of the film is life outside of the ballroom.
We are shown that voguing is more than just a crucial mode of self-expression, providing an outlet of pain and frustration for a community that faces issues of homelessness, sexual exploitation, and continued harassment from the police. In a time when representation and visibility of such socially marginalised individuals are at the forefront of political debate, Kiki makes amends to the criticism that faced Jenny Livingston’s 1980s classic Paris is Burning by being written collaboratively with House Mother and social activist Twiggy Pucci Garcon.
The film centres around strong and charismatic individuals who tell their own stories, such as Chi Chi Mizrahi, a dedicated youth mentor who founded the House of Unbothered Cartier and Gia Marie Love, an outspoken and active member of the ballroom scene, involved in HIV and STI prevention schemes. Over the course of four years we witness heartbreaking and intimate moments of transition, grief and loss, as well as displays of unwavering strength and defiance in face of ongoing social stigma and oppression.
Kiki not only offers those facing similar experiences much-needed positive role models and guidance, but also gives outsiders a sensitive insight into the complexities and difficulties of what it can mean to be young, black and queer in the 21st century.
Jayne Rosanna Phillips
Kiki does not yet have a UK release date.
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