Revisiting the Classics: Paris Is Burning

  • Tuesday, November 28, 2023 / 7:00 PM - 9:30 PM (PST)
  • Pollock Theater
  • Screening Format: Sony Digital Projection (71 minutes)
  • With Lucas Hilderbrand (Film & Media, UC Irvine)
  • Director: Jennie Livingston
    Starring: Venus Xtravaganza, Pepper LaBeija, Dorian Corey, Willi Ninja, Octavia St. Laurent

In conjunction with the UCSB Art, Design & Architecture Museum’s exhibition Please, Come In…, the Carsey-Wolf Center was thrilled to present a screening of Jennie Livingston’s iconic 1990 documentary Paris is Burning. A vibrant look inside New York City’s end-of-the-millenium drag ball culture, Paris Is Burning remains an exhilarating portrait of queer life, creativity, beauty, and kinship in the face of the intersecting forces of racism, homophobia and transphobia, poverty, and the HIV/AIDS crisis.

Pairing intimate interviews with exhilarating footage of competitive drag balls, the film is a vital record of a performance culture—innovated largely by queer and trans people of color living on the economic margins—that continues to shape popular culture on a national and global scale. From Beyoncé’s blockbuster album and tour Renaissance to popular television programs like Legendary, the energy of the drag ball and the legacy of Paris is Burning vibrates across our cultural moment: an ideal time to revisit this classic of independent US documentary.

In this event, Lucas Hilderbrand (Film & Media Studies, UC Irvine) joined moderator Graham Feyl (History of Art & Architecture, UCSB) for a post-screening discussion of Paris Is Burning. 

Please, Come In… was organized by the Art, Design & Architecture Museum at UC Santa Barbara and was curated by Sylvia Faichney and Graham Feyl (History of Art & Architecture, UCSB).


A photo of film scholar Lucas Hilderbrand. He has short, dark hair and smiles against a neutral background, wearing a black shirt.

Lucas Hilderbrand (Film & Media Studies, UC Irvine)

Lucas Hilderbrand is Professor and Chair of Film and Media Studies at the University of California, Irvine. He is the author of the books The Bars Are Ours: Histories and Cultures of Gay Bars in America, 1960 and After; Paris is Burning: A Queer Film Classic; and Inherent Vice: Bootleg Histories of Videotape and Copyright.

Portrait of Graham Feyl taken from a low angle. He is posing with his eyes closed, and a disco ball held up to half of this face against a sky background. He wears a white dress shirt and grey blazer.

Moderator Graham Feyl

Graham Feyl is an art historian, curator, and writer based in California. He is a PhD student in the History of Art & Architecture department at the University of California, Santa Barbara, where he researches and works at the intersection of craft and queerness.

 This event is sponsored by the Carsey-Wolf Center and the UCSB Art, Design & Architecture Museum.

Revisiting the Classics

What happens when a film becomes a “classic”? The Carsey-Wolf Center’s 2023-24 feature series Revisiting the Classics engages creatively and critically with our filmic past, approaching it with fresh eyes and novel interpretive lenses. Not simply a celebration of the “great works,” Revisiting the Classics will consider how classic texts have shaped the work of contemporary filmmakers, how complicated questions of politics and aesthetics emerge through practices of adaptation and interpretation, and how the changing landscape of film distribution, archiving, preservation, and critique affects the formation of canon and the making of new “classics.”