Strike a pose, there’s plenty to Kiki. Brings the fabulous to firebrand activism.
Referenced in the Scissor Sisters’ swansong track Let’s Have a Kiki, New York’s voguing ballroom scene is still going strong almost thirty years after Jennie Livingston’s seminal Paris is Burning dropped in on the fabulous queens burning up the dance floor with mind-bending moves, looks and beat boxing.
Always a haven for the outsider, Swedish filmmaker Sara Jordenö’s doco Kiki, her feature debut, drops in on the phenomenon in an America where LGBTIQ rights are slipping backwards, particularly for queer people of colour and for the trans community.
An MQFF highlight, the unbridled creativity of the Kiki balls are incredible to behold. Like a sequined and fierce make-up version of Game of Thrones, the Kiki kings and queens battle each other for supremacy in Houses of impressively inventive names, from the House of Juicy Couture to the House of Unbothered Cartier.
As glamorous as it all looks, many of these kids of are teetering on the precarious edge of homelessness and have escaped often-fractious family backgrounds while coming to terms with their gender and sexual identities. Despite this, the teens focused are punching well above their weight as activists too, taking the fight right up to Obama’s more willing White House.
Co-writer Twiggy Pucci Garcon is one of the Kiki kids making a difference as the Christopher Street pier becomes a safe meeting place and an opportunity to connect at risk youth with social services that can help them get a hand up, with Chi Chi Mizrahi another inspiring leader. As several of the kids doing it tough point out, marriage equality, while great and all, is something of a white middle class obsession that’s yet to bring improvement on the streets where violence against LGBTIQ minorities is still a very real and present danger. HIV meds and transitioning is an expensive proposition for many too.
What with the change of the White House signalling darker days ahead, Jordenö’s Kiki is a firebrand film that both shows how far we have to go and offers hope that there are those of us out there ready to fight while killing it on the floor.
Stephen A Russell @SARussellwords
Book tickets to catch Kiki at MQFF here.