To watch vogue is to witness freedom. Freedom to express yourself, freedom to transcend your born gender, and freedom to discover your own personal happiness. Kiki, the new documentary by Sara Jordenö and Twiggy Pucci Garcon, spotlights the youth experiencing this freedom through a subculture called Kiki. A scene primarily for young LGBTQ people of color, Kiki was born as an offshoot of ball culture and mirrors the competition dance balls, voguing, and houses of its progenitor. In the film we come to know the personal stories and struggles of some of the most important people in Kiki. We grieve for Symba McQueen as he discusses his HIV diagnosis, we feel empathy for Chi Chi Mizrahi as he describes his experiences with an intolerant father, and we smile at Gia Marie Love and her deadpan humor.
Though the film successfully gives an intimate perspective of those involved with Kiki, it struggles to achieve a story flow and focused plot through its collection of interviews and stories. Regardless of its discontinuity, the movie artistically shows how Kiki provides a repressed and vulnerable demographic with community support, access to resources and HIV/AIDS treatments, and most importantly an identity. Near the film’s denouement there is an emotive scene where a still and expressionless dancer looks into the camera and breathes hard from a just finished performance. The camera holds the shot long enough for you to see her pride and both external and internal beauty.
Kiki was recently screened at Frameline’s opening night inside Castro Theater.