Before Paris is Burning, before RuPaul’s Drag Race, there was The Queen, director Frank Simon’s ground-breaking 1968 documentary which introduced audiences to the world of competitive drag by chronicling the 1967 Miss All-American Camp Beauty Pageant. Now, thanks to Kino Lorber, this landmark film has been restored and returns to the big screen after 50 years!
The Queen takes us backstage to kiki with the contestants as they rehearse, throw shade, and transform into their drag personas in the lead-up to the big event. Organized by LGBT icon and activist Flawless Sabrina, the competition boasted a star-studded panel of judges including Andy Warhol and his superstars Edie Sedgwick and Mario Montez. But perhaps most memorable is an epic diatribe calling out the pageant scene’s racial bias delivered by Crystal LaBeija, who would go on to form the influential House of LaBeija, heavily featured in 1990’s Paris Is Burning. A vibrant piece of queer history, The Queen can now be seen in full resplendence thanks to a new restoration from the original camera negative.
“Whether pushing the camera close to the performers or zooming in from afar to survey them intimately, Simon captures the lavish life of theatrical imagination that inspires them and makes gender itself seem like an urgent performance.” – Richard Brody, New Yorker
“The Queen is an extraordinary documentary.” – Renata Adler, New York Times