Kiki
Kiki
Documentary Centerpiece
(Sweden, USA, 2016, 94 min)
BLU-RAY
Directed By: Sara Jordenö

Director Statement

"People ask me how I found the Kiki Scene, but the truth is, they found me. Exactly four years ago I was doing fieldwork for another project at a community based organization called Faces NY, where Chi Chi Mizrahi and Twiggy Pucci Garçon worked at the time. I have been practicing as a visual artist in Sweden and the US for 16 years, mainly using film as a medium and documentary and collaborative practices as a strategy. When the director of Faces NY, Antonio Rivera, learned of this, he arranged for a meeting between us. That meeting ended in an invitation to make a small project about the Kiki scene, in which Twiggy and Chi Chi are leaders.

KIKI was a small project that very quickly became a big film. To be able to make a film about this community was like a wonderful gift, but I had much trepidation. The larger culture of House and Ballroom, of which the Kiki Scene is a part, had been portrayed in several New Queer Cinema classics, and I felt that the Kiki scene deserved a film with its own artistic strategy and identity. I was afraid of my outsiderness (my Swedishness, my whiteness; I could never at any time in my life claim to be 'at risk'). I was concerned that I would not be able to fully understand, less be able make a nuanced portrait. It became clear that if the project was going to work, it needed to be a collaboration, and Twiggy became the co-writer of the film. Working with Twiggy was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, and I always felt complete artistic agency in my role as a director.

Through Twiggy I was welcomed and immersed myself into the Kiki scene. I was invited to practices, to balls, to community meetings, where I could see how this community was constantly working things out and lifting themselves up. I was very inspired by Fred Wiseman and the Maysles. I wanted to make a community portrait without any kind of interpretations or voice over. I wanted the people in the film to be allowed to talk for themselves. But as the DP Naiti Gámez and I quickly realized, we needed to employ a range of cinematic and documentary strategies. The balls themselves are like a visual and sonic shock to the system. To be able to catch the complexities of the artform of Voguing or runway, we had to find ways to create pause in this explosion of creativity and empowerment, and we filmed highly stylized sequences with the Scarlet in slow-motion. In these scenes, with no music, we also are able to hear some of the experiences, the fear and pain, that lies underneath those spectacular performances. ""Voguing is an outlet to me"", Divo says in the film. ""It's more than just an art"". That was, for me as a director, incredibly important to convey: the people in the film are not here only for your entertainment. The film demands you to listen, to become intimate with people's individual struggles and how they overcome them. To be able to do that, Naiti and I moved in really close, in both image and narrative. There was always a fear in asking people to share intimate details of their lives but Twiggy, the cast and I agreed that in using cinematic and narrative distance, the film would actually be in more danger of becoming exploitative. These individuals are not all the same. This is their time, and the rest of the world will listen.

""Kiki"" is House and Ballroom vernacular, it means ""to have fun"". But the Kiki scene is not an empty spectacle, it is a serious, grassroots activist project with real political influence and empowerment as one of its goals. As we were filming, the political landscape around the individuals in the film started to change. The film documents important political milestones of great relevance to their lives: the re-election of President Obama, the Black Lives Matters and Trans Lives Matters movements, the Supreme Court ruling on Marriage Equality, and the reclaiming of LGBTQ history to include trans people of color. But there is so much more to be done, and there is an urgency in KIKI that asks its viewer to recognize that people in the film are still lacking basic civil rights. This is particularly true of the individuals of transexperience in the film, Zariya and Gia.

To me, cinema is a form of writing. There are many authors to this text. Twiggy is an important one, Naiti is another, and the collective Qween Beat, headed by MikeQ, adds another important nuance to the film. Through them, KIKI also became a film about music, with tracks created specifically for the film. I edited the film in Sweden with the Swedish editor Rasmus Ohlander, and while Rasmus has never met the individuals in person, he instinctively was able to find their storylines in the 150 hours of intense material that was brought to him. With Rasmus' help, I was able to find the universal themes in the film - self-actualization, dignity, and family support - which will resonate with people from all societies and walks of life. - Sara Jordenö

CO-WRITER'S STATEMENT

Growing up, I never would have imagined making a film, much less one to make it to the iconic Sundance Film Festival. Born and raised in such a small place, Portsmouth, Virginia, to a Christian (Baptist) mother and a Vietnam (Marine) veteran father, I wasn't exactly able to express myself freely. Black, Gay, and relatively feminine, I was trying to live up to their dreams of being a doctor or lawyer, all the while wanting to be a dancer and work in the fashion industry. I discovered Ballroom and it became my refuge, my safe space, and the place I chose my family.

After moving to New York to pursue my education at the Fashion Institute of Technology, I found myself homeless, unemployed, and at that point - a college dropout. Blessed to have family in the House and Ballroom Community, I was offered a place to stay and I was connected to FACES NY, where I entered the world of health education and dedicated myself to not only representing and teaching my community, but healing it. Little did I know, I had so much healing to do of my own.

Be it dance, music, film, or fashion, I've always had a fascination with art. Over four years ago, I began speaking with my supervisor Antonio Rivera and best friend/colleague ChiChi Mizrahi about working on a project, a film about ballroom. None of us knew where to begin, when in walked an angel in disguise who changed my life forever: Sara Jordenö.

We met over and over and completely immersed Sara into the world of the Ballroom Community's "daughter, the Kiki Scene. From house practices and meetings to balls and community organizing events, we not only conversed with Sara about what the Scene is and who is in it, but also who we are as human beings. Originally, Sara thought perhaps the film should be about me, or the Haus of PUCCI, but there was so much more to be told. At that point, I envisioned a film that would make history in some way, but had not yet realized the huge undertaking we embarked on. We agreed that in order for the film to be successful, the film must be a collaboration. "Not About Us, Without Us." It was one of the best decisions I've ever made in my life.

Over the course of the next four years we would film over 150 hours of pain, joy, struggle, triumph, expression, and resilience. We would create a film that tells the stories of both individuals and a community. We would create a film that gives an in depth view of activism and community organizing. We would create a film that speaks to politics, power, and personal agency. We would create KIKI.

As the film's co-writer, I had the task of making a meaningful project and elevating the voices of people who I know well and love dearly, without them feeling exploited. As a gatekeeper, I had the heavy lift of representing the community that saved my life and helped shape who I am. As an individual, I had the struggle of sharing my personal story at a time when I was still damaged and had not reconciled with so much of my past. There was also the love, care, and meaningful support of the film's director, Sara Jordenö, who became my Sister during the process.

KIKI is a film with many themes (family, artistic expression, civil rights, and more) that I pray will invoke light and love into the lives of each and every person who sees it. To me, documentaries are not only about telling a story, but are also about bringing to light the experiences of people in order to change policy, shift consciousness, and heal the world. - Twiggy Pucci Garçon"
Screening Schedule
Thu, Jul 14th 8:30pm
Ford Theatres
$20.00

This event is already past
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