Elegance Bratton & His Unique Journey Toward Filmmaking
Elegance Bratton is just one of the many amazing artists that the New Hampshire Film Festival is proud to showcase and celebrate.
We first met the filmmaker at our 2016 festival, where we featured his short film called Walk for Me. In the short, a boy explores his identity, making his Femme Queen debut in the shimmering lights of New York City’s ballroom scene. When his mother shows up one night and discovers his act, his two worlds collide as his secret is revealed.
The subject matter of the short (and many of his other projects) is close to home for Bratton. When he was 16, his mother kicked him out because he was gay. From there, he spent nearly a decade homeless. Bratton found solace in the ballroom scene of Christopher Street in the West Village, where he was surrounded by other queer people of color.
At the age of 25, a phone call home for help led him to take his mother’s advice about joining the military — a move that would influence his future as a filmmaker. As Bratton told The New York Times, the first time he picked up a camera was when he was a Marine. “The Marine Corps taught me that I wasn’t just something to be thrown away,” he told The Times.
After his service, he enrolled in Columbia University with a major in African-American Studies. Soon after, Walk for Me was released followed by Pier Kids — a film that follows three gay and transgender youths of color who become homeless on the same street where the Gay Rights Movement began.
Bratton basically was one of these kids for nearly a decade and used the film to teach his family about his experience on the streets. The film was shot over the course of three years and has received praise from GLAAD, Out Magazine, and Vice.
Most recently, Bratton created a 10-episode documentary series for Viceland called My House. Influenced by Jennie Livingston’s 1990 documentary Paris is Burning, the show follows the real-life dramas of New York City’s ballroom culture. Bratton gives viewers an inside look at ballroom’s next generation including their personal lives and the sociopolitical aspects of the culture.
You can watch My House on Viceland here. If you’re interested in watching more about New York’s ballroom culture, Ryan Murphy (American Horror Story) has a new series on FX called Pose, which was just renewed for a second season. We also suggest checking out Paris is Burning (available to stream on Netflix).