[PARK CITY, UT.] There’s a family tree that exist when it comes to independent filmmaking and the Sundance Collection at UCLA has the right mission in preserving our filmmakers ancestral way of creating visual stories. Beginning in 1997 a special vault has been dedicated to maintaining an archive of selected film productions that will serve as a long-term learning tool for future independent media historians. Not only is it a great vehicle for learning it also serves as a way to preserve films from being lost and to safeguard independent filmmaking’s best practices from deteriorating.
This year the Sundance Film Festival decided in bringing Jennie Livingston’s first documentary film Paris Is Burning back to the big screen after 24 years of it’s shared Grand Jury Prize debut in 1991. It is a known fact that everyone in the Netflix world has seen or heard of Paris Is Burning because no lady is sure at night. I have personally watched this documentary countless times to the point where I have most of it memorized. It has to be one of the most quoted independent films till this day. When I discovered that Paris Is Burning was going to be shown at Sundance in an actual theatre -digitally restored- I had only one goal to attend Sundance for the first time and land tickets in any means possible. Thankfully, the Universe heard my cry and read my tweets on working out a miracle in crossing paths with the director herself and was granted press access to the screening of the worlds most celebrated film. Depicting the struggles and excitements of latino and black NYC boys that lived the alternative lifestyle in attending balls: an equivalent to beauty pageants.
Before the screening I was blessed with the opportunity to sit down and interview Livingston about her thoughts on returning -to Sundance after showing other films there since ’91- to the festival with Paris Is Burning being remembered for it’s remarkable impact in cinematography. What I learned is how the film first showed out in New York without a credits sequenced then later being funded to include the credit sequence at the Sundance Film Festival. Livingston then added how the festival was much smaller back then which made it very complicated for her to wait in the harsh cold of winter for shuttles that barely ran whilst she had tuberculosis that her roommates gave her. At the time she was an AIDS activist and to be struck with that infection must have been tough yet she still enjoyed her time and loves attending Sundance when she can because it’s the one of the best place for connectivity.
The next project Livingston is putting together is called Earth Camp One with the producer being hired through the art of networking. She continued by saying “If you’re not in an atmosphere where you can talk to people, magic doesn’t happen.” and I can completely attest to that. Now that we’re celebrating 25 years of the film there might be some magic in the works with some unreleased materials that UCLA will possible produce for the general public.
After being complimented by Livingston saying to me “You’re Adonis” – an extremely handsome young man- I wanted to see what house she would sort me in. Had I lived in the 70-80’s and based on her experience with each house thirty years ago, she immediately responded with Labeija. Which had me all excited because it’d be the house that I would want to be representing. I mean come on, Crystal, Pepper were everything and legends wouldn’t suffice in describing who they were as mothers of the house of Labeija. It came as a surprise to find out that Livingston started in photography and later took on the filmmaking role based on the countless invites to attend balls that were so political in a sense of what was popular talking points in social society that highlighted diverse mindsets.
Having a film that touched on mainstream topics was such a success and I can only imagine the recognition Livingston will receive with a film that mainly focuses on what western culture avoids discussing. That is, life after death and how we cope and deal with losing special people in our lives that cause a void of emptiness when they exit this world. It’s a film that I am highly interested in and would love to learn more about because I have yet to lose someone so close to me. However, as much as I would love to, I still can’t truly help anyone that is mourning because I know very little on the subject. Earth Camp One is highly interesting due to the fact that Livingston went through losing four family members in a span of five years. She already has me thinking on the concept she gave of how we grow up and want to break free and leave our families to discover ourselves yet what happens when they leave us…?! If you’re like me and want to dig and research about the film allow me to direct you in the right path through this link.
Keep tabs on upcoming projects at jennielivingston.com