Documentary reveals NYC drag queen life

Kevin Turner of The Daily Tar Heel reports a documentary about NYC drag queen life.

For drag queens featured in the documentary “Paris is Burning,” sequins, makeup and stilettos aren’t just part of a costume. They’re part of a lifestyle.

The 1990 documentary about the drag culture in New York City will be screened at 5 p.m. today as the fourth installment in the Global Queer Cinema Film Series.

The film series is presented in conjunction with Global Queer Cinema, a course taught by Germanic languages professor and sexuality studies board member Alice Kuzniar. Kuzniar, who chose all films for the series, was once a programmer for the North Carolina Gay and Lesbian Film Festival.

“I wanted to choose ‘Paris is Burning’ because it has been probably the most controversial in visible film from the 1990s that dealt with transgender and it’s been taken up in a lot of film criticism and scholarship on race and transgender studies,” Kuzniar said.

“It has also been controversial because why is it that a predominately white audience would be interested in the spectacle that they are presenting? So there is kind of a voyeuristic titillation in the gender and racial difference.”

The series, which began last November and has already shown two films and one documentary, screens movies tackling issues facing the queer community from a variety of cultures and religions.

“I wanted to have a diversity of different nationalities represented, and I wanted to have a number of documentaries represented that discuss issues like religious taboos,” Kuzniar said.

Students in Kuzniar’s class are required to go to the screenings, but the general public is invited and encouraged to attend.

“I think ‘Paris is Burning’ is a really interesting film,” said Reva Grace Phillips, a first year English and history double major and sexuality studies minor.

“I think in our class we’re going to be viewing it in the context of to what extent does transgender or transvestitism promote stereotypes and tackle stereotypes; how drag performances often reinforce negative stereotypes we have of genders.”

Phillips is the outreach co-chairwoman on the Gay, Lesbian, Bisexual, Transgender-Straight Alliance board at UNC.

Phillips, who identifies as an LGBTIQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, intersex, queer) person, participated in last semester’s drag show, “Transcendence,” which was presented by the GLBTSA.

“The difference between my experience performing and the movie is that I don’t live my life as a drag king,” Phillips said.

“But I think in ‘Paris is Burning’ they focus much more on the subculture in which that is a life. That is the only way for the most of the people I saw in the film to receive recognition or sense of praise.”

This year is the festival’s first, although it could become an annual fixture at UNC.

“The turnout in the fall was pretty slim, but at my last class there was a huge turnout – the room was full,” Kuzniar said. “We’ll see how the turnout goes on and maybe we’ll continue it.”

VIEW THE DOCUMENTARY Time: 5 p.m. to 7 p.m. today Location: House Undergraduate Library 205 Info: