Written and directed by Elegance Bratton, follows Crystal LaBeija, Casper and Desean’s transition from being homeless to housed.
While film will forever be entirely subjective and your experience of Pier Kids will be unique, the necessity of this film is undeniable. The opening statistics of just how large of a portion of homeless youths are queer is a harsh truth which needs to be highlighted. While the world seen in the media may have become more open and accepting about the LGBTQIA community, there are still countless people with homophobic attitudes which can’t be ignored. Parents are still kicking out their children because of their sexual orientation or gender identity, leaving them to fend for themselves, and this film explores a chosen few who gather at Christopher Street Pier in New York City, for a safe place with fellow queer people.
Bratton’s style is unfiltered and up close, it moves like one of the group and gains a personal connection with the subjects of the film. It very quickly dives into the different obstacles that these people face, in particular police discrimination. It’s a brief but clear portrait of the sort of prejudiced treatment that they receive on the streets. It also highlights the lengths that they’re forced to go to ensure a place to stay and food to eat, which are harrowing to hear.
However, it moves around so much that the focus becomes quite muddled, the message is still there but the story and progression are hard to keep track of. It also steps slightly over the line with its filming of a funeral, while the actions were undoubtedly within the realm of permission, it feels entirely unnecessary. The impact of that moment could land easily without the need to go for further shock.
Pier Kids has an essential point to make, and stories to tell which keenly highlight the need to take action to help homeless queer youths. Its choice to use a raw, in the action style is extremely fitting, and allows the filmmaker to get up close and personal with its subjects. Sadly, as it progresses it starts to feel messy, it doesn’t make it easy for you to follow and keep track of all those involved, which can dull the impact of pivotal moments. It’s a highly admirable and necessary concept but the execution is somewhat flawed.