Livingston was born in Dallas, Texas and grew up in Los Angeles where she attended Beverly Hills High School. She graduated from Yale University in 1983, where she studied photography, drawing, and painting with a minor in English Literature. Livingston is the niece of the late film director Alan J. Pakula, who initially warned her away from film directing, but later proved encouraging. She lives in Brooklyn, New York.
Livingston's documentary about a New York gay and transgender Black and Latino ball culture won the 1991 Sundance Grand Jury Prize and was a key film both in the emerging American independent film movement and in the nascent New Queer Cinema. Paris is Burning was one of Miramax Films' earliest successes, and helped pave the way for a current crop of commercially successful documentary films. It was one of the best films of 1991 according to The Los Angeles Times, Time Magazine, The Washington Post, and NPR; New York Magazine, in its 2008 40th anniversary edition, called it one of the most influential cultural works to come out of New York City in 40 years.
Two of Livingston's short films, "Hotheads" and "Who's the Top?," explore queer topics: Hotheads, a 1993 documentary created through the AIDS research-friendly Red Hot Organization, explores two comedians' responses to violence against women: cartoonist Diane Dimassa, and writer/performer Reno. Hotheads was shown on MTV and KQED and released on Polygram Video as part of Red Hot's "No Alternative" compilation.
Who's the Top?, Livingston's first dramatic film, a 22 minute long short film, premiered at Berlin International Film Festival in 2005, and stars Marin Hinkle, Shelly Mars, and Steve Buscemi. The film, a lesbian sex comedy with musical numbers, also features 24 Broadway dancers choreographed by Broadway choreographer John Carrafa in the manner of Busby Berkeley. The film screened at over 150 film festivals on nearly every continent, including theatrical runs at Boston's Museum of Fine Arts and London's Institute of Contemporary Arts.
Jennie Livingston, director of "Paris Is Burning" and the new film "Who's The Top?" with Laura Teodosio, producer of "Top," at Outfest in June of 2005. Photo by Eugene Hernandez/indieWIRE
"Through the Ice" is a digital short, commissioned in 2005 for public television station WNET-New York, about the accidental drowning of Miguel Flores in Prospect Park, Brooklyn; the film was also seen at the 2006 Sundance Film Festival.
Livingston is currently directing a documentary feature, Earth Camp One, a first person narrative about grief, loss, and a hippie summer camp in the 1970s, also a broader essay on social and cultural attitudes about death and impermanence, was begun on a 2000 Guggenheim fellowship and was also partially funded by Netflix. She is also developing Prenzlauer Berg, an ensemble film set in the art worlds of New York and East Berlin in the late 80s. She has appeared in others' films, speaking about film and filmmaking, including "Fabulous! The Story of Queer Film," created for the cable channel IFC Television in 2006.
In 2011, Livingston directed a video for Elton John's show at Caesar's Palace in Las Vegas; the piece is a series of black and white moving-image portraits of a variety of New Yorkers that accompanies the song Mona Lisas and Mad Hatters. The show will run through 2015.
Livingston has taught film at Yale, Brooklyn College, and Connecticut College, and lectured at dozens of colleges and cultural institutions in the US, including Williams College and Rutgers College Writers House; and at several institutions abroad, including the South Africa School of Motion Picture Medium and Live Performance (AFDA), Johannesburg; and the Hochschule für Film und Fersehen (Munich). Fellowships have included the Guggenheim Foundation, the Getty Center, the German Academic Exchange (DAAD), The MacDowell Colony, and the National Endowment for the Arts (NEA.)
New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader by Michele Aaron
Paperback: 224 pages
Publisher: Rutgers University Press (September 9, 2004)
Amazon: New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader
Coined in the early 1990s to describe a burgeoning film movement, “New Queer Cinema” has turned the attention of film theorists, students, and audiences to the proliferation of intelligent, stylish, and daring work by lesbian and gay filmmakers within independent cinema and to the infiltration of “queer” images and themes into the mainstream. Why did this shift take place? Was it political gains, cultural momentum, or market forces that energized the evolution and transformation of this cinematic genre?
New Queer Cinema: A Critical Reader provides a definitive and highly readable guide to the development of this important and controversial film movement. The volume is divided into four sections: defining “new queer cinema,” assessing its filmmakers, examining geographic and national differences, and theorizing spectatorship. Chapters address the work of pivotal directors (such as Todd Haynes and Gregg Araki) and salient films (including Paris is Burning and Boys Don’t Cry), as well as unconventional and non-Anglo-American work (experimental filmmaking and third world cinema).
With a critical eye to its uneasy relationship to the mainstream, New Queer Cinema explores the aesthetic, sociocultural, political, and, necessarily, commercial investments of the movement. It is the first full-length study of recent developments in queer cinema that combines indispensable discussions of central issues with exciting new work by key writers.
More LGBT History at my website: www.elisarolle.com/, My Ramblings/Persistent Voices
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