“Someone who walks is telling you, I am beautiful, this is who I am”

Delving into the Kiki scene, documentary filmmaker Sara Jordeno follows a vibrant community of LGBT youth-of-color and performance artists in the New York Ballroom community. Made famous by Madonna’s Vogue and documentary Paris is Burning, whole sections of the film are thrillingly dominated by the eclectic form of dance which has developed over years in this colourful corner of the city.

As much a form of expression as it is a refuge for many, the film chronicles the lives of several performers, their experiences of coming out and what the Ballroom scene means for them. Family interviews along with a candid insight into the subculture’s underpinnings and now significantly-formalised structure paints a vivid picture of many of the participant’s lives and the challenges they continue to face.

Emotive throughout, many of those interviewed have been affected by the spread of HIV as well as poverty, homelessness and ongoing discrimination as members of minority groups. Covering a four-year period, Kiki is hugely endearing for providing an evolving insight into the community rather than a snapshot, in its later stages depicting both the struggle and consternations surrounding the same-sex marriage debate and the impact of last year’s US Supreme Court decision to abolish its prohibition.

Valuable for the telling interviews and intimate coverage of some of the performer’s lives, Kiki’s Ballroom scenes are nonetheless its most pronounced attribute. Wisely, the filmmakers rest for long-holds on routines in the park or those preparing for larger acts, viscerally intriguing in and of themselves. Most striking however are the major dance sequences, interspersed throughout the film, in front of Kiki’s large, effervescent crowds.

All the better for the moving background on many of the performers, it is the frequently well-executed numbers of a very distinct form of dance that through sheer dazzling irrepressibility, much like many of the film’s more intimate moments, are hard to take your eyes off.

Kiki is currently screening at the Sydney Film Festival on Fri 10 June and Saturday 11 June – for tickets head here

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