LGBT Akron Arts Fest: Kiki

LGBT Akron Arts Fest: Kiki

Director: Sara Jordenö
Running Time: 94 minutes

This film had its final screening at The Nightlight on August 22, 2017.

The Vogueing Scene, Still a Refuge for Gay and Transgender Youth

Jennie Livingston’s 1991 film, Paris is Burning was a vivid look at an influential gay subculture in New York before the term L.G.B.T.Q. even existed. The Paris crew, made up largely of black and Hispanic transgender women and drag performers, took its outlandish ballroom competitions from Harlem to Times Square and the Village, jolting the pop culture of the time. It also chronicled their individual struggles to survive.

More than 25 years later, Kiki, a new documentary directed by the Swedish filmmaker Sara Jordeno (and credited as a film by Ms. Jordeno and Twiggy Pucci Garçon), explores the contemporary Harlem gay and transgender scene.

People who live outside of the places where the AIDS crisis hit hardest tend to mistakenly believe that it’s under control. Kiki a spiritual descendant of Ms. Livingston’s film, implicitly insists the devastation that H.I.V. and AIDS wrought persists. As a partial result, the queer and transgender teenagers of the post-ballroom culture, which they call the “Kiki scene,” have, it seems, only themselves to rely on. Even those who have at least one supportive parent, as Mr. Pucci Garçon does, carry a kind of visual loneliness despite their ability to strike a pose.

American society is full of people who shrug off the struggles of such individuals as “lifestyle choices,” and the current sociopolitical climate is inarguably actively encouraging a backlash in transgender tolerance. Kiki shows us a group of brave and beautiful souls for whom the struggle is, unfortunately, probably about to get even harder.

~~ Glenn Kenny,