We all know what happened with Kids: it was a smash that catapulted Korine into wunderkind territory. Chloe Sevigny, Rosario Dawson, and Leo Fitzpatrick all started prolific careers. Justin Pierce won an Independent Spirit Award for his performance. But something felt off. The independent production was selected to play at the Cannes Film Festival, and only Clark and Korine went. The director, who was ever-present on the scene before the movie began to shoot and all during production, all but disappeared. At the premiere, everyone got $1,000 bonus checks. Those checks are the only money that some of the actors received for the film since it was non-union. Anyway, Justin Pierce wins the Independent Spirit Awards and moves to L.A. Harold Hunter goes back and forth between L.A. and New York to get acting gigs.
The Kids explores the dangers of exploitation when it comes to art, especially if you’re in poverty. The filmmaker also looks at the risks of being a child star. The kids of Kids came from broken homes and unstable conditions. Whether he meant to or not, Larry Clark did a great disservice to the vulnerable young people who starred in his movie. They were underpaid, given drugs… I mean, the whole thing is scandalous. Most of the amateur actors were under 18. There’s a scene in Kids where real young kids are smoking blunts. The production used real blunts. Javier Nunez was in the scene and fell asleep and slept through the most controversial moment, which you’ll know what I mean if you’ve seen it.
“…made me weep, especially in the last ten minutes.”
The film made $20 million, and it got shot for $1.5 million. A lot of the actors were royally screwed. In 2000, Justin Pierce committed suicide in the Bellagio hotel. Harold Hunter, who was never into drugs before the movie began production, succumbed to a cocaine-induced heart attack in 2006. He never reached the fame he so desperately wanted.
The Kids made me weep, especially in the last ten minutes. It is a story of people left behind and what they do to pick up the pieces. It really doesn’t paint Larry Clark in a good light. Both he and Korine declined to be involved with the film, period. While it’s not really surprising considering the content, I wish that the outcome would have been positive for all involved, not just a lucky few that we all know today. See Martin’s labor of love as a way of celebrating Justin Pierce and Harold Hunter. It also serves as a reckoning for the people who got swept under the rug. It’s an incredibly powerful documentary that I think anyone who’s seen Kids and was impacted by it, as I was, must-see. It is so bizarre to know that a film that meant a lot to you actually was very problematic.
The Kids screened at the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival.
"…the whole thing is scandalous."