DAVID SIMS, THE ATLANTIC
"At a moment when trans rights, which had experienced tentative progress in recent years, are increasingly under threat, Kiki feels both relevant and hopeful. The film is a beautiful celebration of a subculture that’s still struggling to win the full respect it deserves."
RICHARD LAWSON, VANITY FAIR
"In dark times when there isn't much to be hopeful about, Kiki shines fierce and bright."
JUSTIN CHANG, THE LOS ANGELES TIMES
"Electrifying. An energetic and enveloping documentary about New York City's LGBT ballroom scene. Kiki often casts a rueful gaze, but it’s also exuberant and alive, and never despairing. It leaves you with the bracing sense that however tough and resilient its subjects might be forced to become, their hope of a better, more tolerant future will never go out of style."
MANOHLA DARGIS, THE NEW YORK TIMES
“Kiki fluidly combines interviews with on-the-street and dance-floor scenes to create an exhilarating, multifaceted portrait of ballroom participants, a number of whom are L.G.B.T. activists. Kiki is also an indelible, must-see ode to gay New York."
KENNETH TURAN, LOS ANGELES TIMES
“Wonderfully alive and emotional.”
LANRE BAKARE, THE GUARDIAN
“A complex documentary. It’s a kaleidoscopic and vivid rendering of a world that is larger than life, flamboyant but ultimately fragile. It’s an ultimately uplifting film and one that doesn’t patronise or placate: the ballroom is shown for what it is, complex, flamboyant and a place to express yourself.”
AMY TAUBIN, FILM COMMENT
"Kiki, which will be compared to 1991 Sundance prize-winner Jennie Livingston’s Paris Is Burning, is a far more optimistic movie, thanks to its hugely talented and accomplished featured performers, poets and writers, and political activists."
RICHARD LAWSON, VANITY FAIR
“A joyous, genuinely inspiring documentary about the current ball culture in New York City, Kiki is in many ways an update of the seminal 1990 documentary Paris Is Burning. But there is something more hopeful about Sara Jordenö’s new film, which takes place at a time when great strides have been made in gay visibility, when protests against racism are happening across the nation, and when the needle seems to finally be moving on trans awareness. There is an undercurrent of righteous anger running through Kiki, especially at the way these people’s lives are often marginalized so the more mainstream gay-rights movement can focus on marriage between affluent white men. But Kiki is not a polemic. It’s a spirited, funny, touching portrait of some seriously smart, creative, and defiant young people. The film makes you feel good about the future, which is pretty hard to do these days.”
EUGENE HERNANDEZ, FILM COMMENT
“A highlight of this year’s Sundance Film Festival. Bursting with the pulse of the emphatic, high-energy dance scene that it documents, Kiki is also alive with the attitudes of the bold, outspoken people of color it profiles.”
KATIE WALSH, THE PLAYLIST
"It takes some moxie to make a documentary on the same subject as one of the best-known and most influential films ever in the form — Jennie Livingston’s seminal 1990 hit “Paris Is Burning” — but that Sara Jordenö pulls off another movie set in the voguing world is testament to her talent. Co-written with one of the film’s subjects, Twiggy Pucci Garçon, it shows, per Katie Walsh’s review, “how crucial access is for a filmmaker,” with more of an insider than outsider view on the world, but also “stands on its own, with subjects who are incredibly smart, open, and eloquent in expressing their personal histories and current situations.” Utilizing some smart stylistic motifs, it never loses focuses on “groups of LGBT people of color who have had to create their own families, clubs and societies when they weren’t accepted in others,” and shows the first-time Swedish director to be a compassionate and assured filmmaker first time at bat.”
DANIEL WALBER, NON FICS
“Kiki is a smart, confident debut and a real credit to its polyphonic subject. A STRONG COMMUNITY PORTRAIT THAT DOES GOOD BY THE LEGACY OF ‘PARIS IS BURNING’ A Wonderful, attentive study of New York’s contemporary ballroom scene, directed by debut filmmaker Sara Jordan with a remarkable eye for portraiture and the empowerment that comes from self presentation.”
SEAN P. MEANS, SALT LAKE CITY TRIBUNE
“Kiki is as bright, colorful and fully alive as the New York LGBT dance scene it captures and celebrates. Jordenö’s camera captures both the pain and heartbreak, but also the sense of community in this brightly lit scene. The inspiring message is that the people in Kiki don’t choose to be gay or trans — they just are — but they do make the choice to be who they are as fabulously as possible.”
DAVID ROONEY, THE HOLLYWOOD REPORTER
Twenty-five years after Jennie Livingston made Paris is Burning, about the drag scene and voguing balls of 1980s New York, that ineffably fabulous underground culture pulses with fresh energy in Kiki. The big difference in Swedish filmmaker Sara Jordeno’s vibrant documentary portrait is that it surveys the lives of LGBTQ youth-of-color at a time when Black Lives Matter has become a national movement and trans rights is making a long-overdue entry into the political conversation. But this is also an innately political film. With a simple eloquence that never gets preachy, it makes the point that the gay marriage movement was driven by the white middle class, while the marginalized transgender community remains largely unrepresented. No mention is made of breakthrough celebrity trans figures like Caitlyn Jenner. But few will fail to observe that the struggle for identity, visibility, respect and rights being explored here is not the journey of a rich white Republican with a team of stylists, a Vanity Fair cover and a massive support infrastructure. But there’s also an underlying sense of empowerment and liberation running through Kiki, notably in the series of beautiful still shots of faces engaging direct-to-camera, and gorgeous displays of voguing attitude in public spaces like Christopher Street Pier.”
“This film never rests on its laurels and declares the fight over. Instead it goes to great pains to illustrate the sliding scales of representation and discrimination” And, “Above all, Kiki makes very clear that so much of this side to New York's history has been forgotten, and its attempts to restore this history back as far as 1920 is certainly fascinating.”
“This doc rules! I missed seeing this at Sundance and finally caught up with it here [Berlinale] and it's outstanding. Full of so much genuine compassion, appreciation and hope. The film profiles the LGBT community in New York City known as the "Kiki" community, a large group of people (including many trans individuals) who host dance events and shows to support each other. The access filmmaker Sara Jordenö gets is impressive, and it's a very well-made doc that challenges all of us to throw out prejudices and appreciate every last person. It also successfully introduces the Kiki movement to the general public.”
“Sad, proud, loud, funny, energetic and affecting, Kiki the documentary reflects accurately the spirit of kiki, the scene.”
“The ballroom scene offers not only spectacle but also potent social and political activism to its lower-income Black and Latino youths. The Houses of LaBeija and Xtravaganza have made way for those of Juicy Couture and Unbothered Cartier, but the commitment to squashing heteronormativity, transphobia and HIV are as fierce as ever.”
ON SEVERAL BEST-OF-SUNDANCE LISTS:
• NY TIMES – Manohla Dargis
• WATCHLOUD: “5 Must-See Black Movies From Sundance 2016”
• CULTURECOLLIDE: “3 Sundance Films That Rock”
• HIGHSNOBIETY: “20 Movies We’re Looking Forward to After the 2016 Sundance Film Festival”
NEW YORK MAGAZINE / VULTURE: Profile/interview with Kiki composer MikeQ about the film.
ROLLING STONE MAGAZINE: “25 Movies We Can’t Wait To See at Sundance 2016”
LAUREN TOWNSEND, INDIEWIRE: “Watch: Bow Down to the Fierce Voguing of Sundance Hit ‘Kiki’” – article about and video from the film’s premiere dance party.
RAE TUTERA, NYLON MAGAZINE: “Now, less than 24 hours since departing the festival, I can’t stop feeling and thinking about Kiki, the Sara Jordenö-directed documentary film centered on New York’s thriving ballroom scene, which I was lucky enough to see during my 48-hour trip.”
LATOYA PETERSON, RACIALICIOUS: Sundance pick (the only film picked from the whole festival)