Filmmaker Elegance Bratton begins Pier Kids with a title card that reads: “In the wake of the Stonewall Riots of 1969, the world cheered the advancement of white queers and ignored the fates of queer people of color.” Centering the experiences and point of view of homeless queer and trans youth of colour, Bratton’s film foregrounds protagonists, whose lives parallel the vitality and resiliance of the original Stonewall rebellion leaders, without flinching away from the precarity of their circumstances.
Pier Kids is a treasure of local history as the documentary’s subjects provide an account of life on the margins of historic Christopher Street in New York City. The protagonists detail their strategies for survival, unique chosen relationships, and their ability to make something out of nothing.
The film offers a searing indictment of an LGBTQ+ rights movement that discards the most vulnerable people on the way to empowerment and inclusion: those who should be its beneficiaries are left behind to be preyed upon, harassed, and disappeared.
Pier Kids foregrounds the strength and fire of its protagonists, allowing them to speak for themselves as they navigate no-win scenarios and manage risks with clarity and courage. Bratton himself lived on the streets for years after his family kicked him out of the house at 16 for being gay, and his empathy for those featured in the film is abundantly apparent.
Co-Partners: Cinema Politica at The Bloor, SKETCH.
Pier Kids. Dir Elegance Bratton, 2019, USA, 96 min. (Canadian Premiere)
Elegance was thrown out of his mother’s home at the age of 16 in New Jersey for being gay. After ten years spent homeless, he joined the U.S. Marine Corps where he became a combat documentarian. After finishing the Marines he’s earned an undergraduate degree from Columbia University and an MFA from NYU Tisch Graduate Film. Grateful for a second chance in life, Elegance has dedicated himself to telling the stories of the under represented so that they too can discover the power of their experiences. Elegance’s award-winning short films have played in almost 150 film festivals world wide including Sundance, Outfest, and the American Black Film Festival. He is executive producer and creator of Viceland’s GLAAD-nominated series, “MY HOUSE.” He is also the author of the Kassel Art Book award-winning photo book, “Bound By Night.”