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Film Of The Week: Pier Kids

MARIA DUARTE recommends a powerful and emotional documentary following three homeless LGBT people of colour over the course of five years

Pier Kids (15)
Directed by Elegance Bratton

SHOT in New York City’s Christopher Street Pier from 2011, this powerful debut feature by writer-director Elegance Bratton shines a light on the tremendous struggles and violence faced by an underground community of homeless LBGT young people of colour.

It follows three gay and transgender black youths who found themselves on the streets after coming out to their families, who disowned them.

Krystal is a Christian trans woman who takes newcomers under her wing, Jusheem “Casper” Thorne is a trans-attracted bisexual skateboarder who “sometimes wishes he were dead” rather than homeless, and Desean, self-appointed mayor of the Pier, is a gay man who has lived in foster care since he was born, having never experienced stable housing.

Filmed over five years in a guerilla and verite style, Bratton puts you in the shoes of the kids as they endure horrendous prejudice, discrimination, gay bashing and police assault; but also the family-like bonds they have forged within their community.

Bratton, who is gay and African-American, shows great affinity and sensitivity for his protagonists, having been homeless himself for 10 years for similar reasons.

A scene where Krystal returns home is absolutely heartbreaking — her mother refuses to accept Krystal as a trans woman and won’t see her unless she is dressed like a man.

“I gave birth to a son … that’s my son,” she says on camera.

Another staggering moment is when Desean reveals that if he was HIV positive he could be housed within days, appearing to consider the idea.

With unprecedented access, Bratton delivers an intimate and moving portrayal of the challenges currently being faced by LBGT youth of colour, while showing families exactly what happens to their children after they force them out.

Dedicated to those who died during the making of this eye-opening film, it is hoped that the livelihoods of queer people of colour will no longer be ignored.

In cinemas

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