10 impactful documentaries you should watch on Netflix

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Paris is Burning (1990)

For anyone who is a fan of RuPaul’s Drag Race, or drag in general, Paris is Burning is absolutely essential viewing. Released in 1990, Paris is Burning explores the lives of the queer communities in New York city, with a particular focus on the underground ball competitions. Believe it or not, RuPaul did not invent lip-syncing.

Jennie Livingston, the film’s director, spent six years shooting and editing Paris is Burning. Whilst much of the film focuses on drag culture (watch this documentary for an explicit rundown of all drag terminology), it also speaks about the violence and homophobia faced by the queer community — particularly those who identify as trans. The balls are safe spaces for performers to be free from the oppression they face within society — perhaps the only safe space available to them.

Whilst drag has now firmly cemented itself into mainstream culture, Paris is Burning offers a nuanced insight into the drag and queer scenes of 1980s New York. It shapes and builds on queer history and, more than anything, ensures that those who fought for the freedoms we are afforded now are never forgotten. They are immortalized within Paris is Burning forever.