Overview/ Review (with Spoilers)
Consider Kiki the spiritual successor to Paris is Burning but with a stronger focus on the background of key characters and with a less jaded, and tired of it all, perspectives. For despite each and every struggle we see, there remains hope. You may not fully understand why, but you can hear it in their voice, you can see it in how some dance, there is hope.
Characters & Storyline
Gia, Twiggy, Chi Chi, Zariya, Diva, and Symba. These are the names of the people we get to intimately know. Who, despite having lives in which those they thought they could trust betrayed them, they still haven’t been fully broken yet. They still are able to open the library to their life and tell their story. Some of which is heartbreaking and deals with death, HIV, drug addiction and more. Yet, there is always better. There is always progress, even if it is just baby steps. But there is a constant reminder that for even those who seemed like they made it, like Gia and Twiggy, reality delivers checks 24/7 and 365 days out of the year. So you must always stay woke and aware and never get comfortable. Though, with this group being comprised of both trans and gay men and women, being constantly aware of the BS that could go down is nothing new.
People dressed me up to be somethin’ else. I was socialized to be somethin’ else and now I have to, you know, deconstruct all of that to get to where I was supposed to be. Because if you left it up to me I would have been like this since I was four. When I said I was a girl.
When you’re one of a kind, you get targeted.
I ask myself […] when […] I go out to the club sometime and I’m […] doin’ a molly or I’m smokin’ a blunt or I’m having a cocktail, […] what’s making me do this? Am I enjoying it? Am I doing it ‘cause I want to? Or, am I doing it ‘cause it’s an escape and it’s comfort, it’s normal for me.
I spent so much on life just living but I don’t know how much quality of living I’ve actually put towards […] bettering myself.
Though not a huge part of the movie, to say that the beats and music weren’t infectious would be a lie. For there will come a point where even if you can’t dance or vogue, you will be doing some kind of moves.
A Character Focused and Hopeful Feature
While the stories in Kiki are reminiscent of many a sad LGBT film, no one seemed beaten down and ready to die. There isn’t this constant tone of people hanging onto impossible dreams or living for the ball scene as if that is the only validation in their existence. We get to see these kids with their partners and their house cackling and having a good time. Receiving healthy love and attention.
Which isn’t to imply there aren’t conversation about learning they have HIV, getting kicked out of the house, sex work, and other issues, but you don’t get that same “Life is exasperating” vibe Paris is Burning sometimes had. Though oppressed, sometimes repressed, and survivors of heinous acts, these kids haven’t been made forever broken.
Another thing I must note is this is a more character focused feature than Paris is Burning. With that, while you don’t necessarily learn a bunch of queer terms, you do feel like you really get to know the people we are introduced to. Almost to the point where the lack of title cards about who is who don’t matter. And while you may not learn their goals and where they see themselves in ten years, you do learn their story and get the opportunity to connect with them.
Connect with them in ways you can tell they don’t let many people do. After all, there is a danger in being open and vulnerable. For with being, sometimes, a recognizable “other,” being perceived as weak creates the possibility of getting taken advantaged of or killed. So with them trusting you with their story, it feels like a gentle ask for you to at least try to understand them and maybe join their cause.
The Importance of Community
What is really drilled into your head is how important it is to find your tribe. How, when your parents and the government fail you, you need a collection of arms, hands, and voices to raise you up. For, if you don’t have that, you’ll have nothing. Heck, even if you are on the street, better to have someone to talk to while under the bridge or on the sidewalk. Better to have a house which acts as a community center, family, and a place where you can call home with the family you perhaps weren’t lucky enough to be born into. For with life being already dangerous, just because of your truth, why pursue trying to make it alone?
Note of Lack of Intersectionality
While Gay marriage is a big deal, there are a slew of other issues the community needs to be addressed. Problem is, based on the opinion of Gia and some others, the same queer folk who fought for marriage equality, who have the resources and privilege to change things, they got what they wanted. They aren’t now shifting gears to deal with homelessness and lack of community resources. So with her saying that, you see the problems of the queer community mirror that of women. The problem being, that once the white American majority of that group got what they needed, they ignore, dismiss, or refuse to participate in the work to end issues which don’t directly affect them.
Overall: Positive (Worth Seeing)
Kiki is a film which pursues being straight forward with you. There is a deep desire for you to connect to these people and recognize their humanity. Not through one sob story after another, but just recognizing they are deserving. That they have fears, laugh and cry, and being queer or trans isn’t their entire life or story. It is a small part that for some reason is treated like a huge deal. So they hope and fight for a time when it isn’t. For they recognize that their culture, their people, they can’t survive if the nation and the world remains indifferent or oblivious. So they, while perhaps uncomfortable, they speak out to you in hopes you may change things in your own way. No matter how small.