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Movie Reviews

The Kids ★★★★



Director: Eddie Martin

Featuring: Hamilton Harris, Jon Abrahams, Priscilla Forsyth

Released: Tribeca Film Festival 2021

Twenty-six years later and Larry Clark’s directorial debut, Kids, is still impactful and shrouded in controversy. Its depiction of a group of seemingly sex and drug obsessed teenagers might not have seemed revolutionary by itself. However, Kids had plucked some children and teenagers from relative obscurity within a skateboarding community and had extremely graphic scenes on display. Whilst much is known about the film itself, and renowned actors such as Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson, to date, a thorough portrayal and a voice has not been given to the perspective of those unknown, non-professional acting children after their moment in the limelight. The Kids is that moment where their unfiltered story is presented.

The film pulls no punches in its exposé of the exploitative way in which Clark and Harmony Korine befriended the skating community for their own gains and the subsequent impact on those discarded children. The Kids is an honest, uncompromising account of a form of ‘grooming’ before such term was used and the manipulation used to film realistic content.  It is a poignant and harrowing journey, particularly as some of the actors suffered from untimely deaths.

The behind-the-scenes footage in The Kids is disturbing, and YouTube comments utter that question on everyone’s minds about the status of the children’s parents. Narrated by Hamilton Harris, who played Hamilton in Kids, a portrait quickly emerges of the tight-knit community forged by the teenagers where skateboarding was often a refuge from the greater horrors within their childhood. The tale reveals a makeshift family of teenagers acting as each other’s saviours in the face of drugs and alcohol pressures.

Noticeably, a darker, unsettling tone reverberates within the film’s directional style when Larry Clark, a man over 50, appears waving that proverbial carrot. The Kids is never explicit in its indictment of the baseball cap-wearing Clark’s sudden involvement in the community. Still, the personal accounts from other skaters accentuates that feeling of unease, as their suspicions were founded. The manipulation of vulnerable, impressionable teenagers is an uncomfortable watch, but Eddie Martin’s direction subtly manages to avoid pontificating. Martin’s detachment enables the audience to form its own judgement via the well-edited montages. However, it is difficult to imagine a world where a film of this nature was made without guardians on set to support the children or any intimacy coordinators.

That underlying sensation of sinister behaviour and seediness in Kids is difficult to shake throughout this documentary. Scenes of Clark at Cannes with Korine defensively answering questions about the age of the children and the adult subject matter also leave a bitter taste. Plus, as The Kids interspersed the personal accounts of the non-professional actors with graphic footage from Kids, this adds to that sensation of frustration over their unfair treatment by an entitled filmmaker.

The Kids is an engrossing exercise in storytelling despite the fact that the accounts of Sevigny and Dawson are noticeably missing. However, in a post #MeToo era, their silence may also be reflective of the corporate approach taken regarding the inappropriate on-set practices stated to have occurred.

Whilst Kids became a cult classic precisely for this raw depiction of sexual encounters and the consequences. It is disheartening to observe how the leading men, Harold Hunter and Justin Pierce, were effectively used and discarded by a system that was supposed to facilitate their aspirations to escape the cycle of poverty. Unfortunately, such a pot of gold proved too good to be true to their detriment as the corporate wheel exercised its power.

The Kids is a powerfully gripping, well-made film with impressive editing techniques, embedding current social media footage to convey that poignancy. The reality in which the film is set adds further emotional complexity due to that loss of potential from unsuspecting, trusting souls that the world’s cynicism had not corruptedthe world’s cynicism had not corrupted. As such it is a gut-wrenching exposé of a 1990s phenomenon and provides perspective of the historically insidious industry practices that were alive. It leaves a hard to ingest message about a coming-of-age film that ultimately became a tragic David v Goliath battle.

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