26 September 2023

We Were Once Kids

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Reviewed by Rama Gaind.

Director: Eddie Martin, Umbrella Entertainment

We Were Once Kids is an eye-opener. It’s a strikingly personal documentary about the real-life individuals who inspired photographer Larry Clarke’s 1995 cult classic film Kids.

In the early 1990s, before the massive gentrification of many of New York’s then slums, several young people from very disparate backgrounds left their broken homes and ventured onto the brutal streets of the city. United by their love of skateboarding, they formed a family and built a unique lifestyle that eventually inspired Kids, a 1995 groundbreaking film.

The crew became overnight commodities, thrust into the mainstream spotlight. Left adrift under the bright lights, some discovered transcendent lives and careers – while others, abandoned and unequipped to handle fame, suffered fatal consequences.

Award-winning filmmaker Eddie Martin (All This Mayhem, Have You Met the Listers?) revisits the cultural landscape of Kids, which had paved a bumpy path for its young stars’ future success.

The coming-of-age drama, Kids propelled the American independent film scene in a daring new direction. Finding inspiration from New York City’s skateboarding scene, it shocked audiences and critics alike with its depictions of teenage drug use and unsafe sex. It memorably launched the acting careers of then-unknowns Chloë Sevigny, Rosario Dawson and Leo Fitzpatrick, but it also featured a number of kids for whom fame proved to be more a burden than a blessing.

Martin draws together archival footage and interviews to reveal just what happened to those other ‘kids’ from Clark’s film, including Justin Pierce and Harold Hunter, who died young and in tragic circumstances. Probing the fine line between celebration and exploitation, publicity and pressure, We Were Once Kids examines a vanished cultural moment and the cost of being thrust into the spotlight with no safety net.

  • We Were Once Kids is screening in cinemas

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