The Kids | Review | Tribeca Film Festival 2021


The ethics of storytelling are something all filmmakers confront when telling a true-to-life story or before dipping their toe into the documentary pool. The Kids go right where Kids goes wrong in that it paints its subjects with an intricate paintbrush, leading with their voices and remaining unobtrusive in a way not afforded to them in youth.

For those unfamiliar with Larry Clark's 1995 movie, the logline is "a day in the life of a group of teens as they travel around New York City skating, drinking, smoking and deflowering virgins," which sounds like a note pulled from a film school student's notebook. The context you need for the documentary is slim as it gives you all the insight you need and does well to quench curiosity by giving you the accompanying footage should you have not seen the film. It contextualises the children's upbringing against New York City conflict, including housing projects, fires burning for insurance money and a wayfaring youth looking for ways to build a family where, at home, it was lacking.

Director Eddie Martin wastes no time setting up his central narrative. His characters, those of the well-known film, are now fully grown adults reflecting on trauma that they were unaware was in the making. In the 90s, King spent time around the group, offering weed and other incentives while snapping photos as they'd skateboard and hang out. Each contributor paints him with a lick of confusion, never understanding his motive for being around but not bothered enough in the beginning to take any action on it. 

There's a wealth of archival footage to accompany Martin's story that grows in discomfort as it persists. Each time a new layer is added to the plot, the audience's heart breaks a little more. It's an incredibly empathetic look at something that has gone amiss for 25 years and has taken too long to get told at great expense. You feel yourself go through it with them as moments captured, such as casting-call sheets up on the wall in the 90s and behind-the-scenes moments flash before your eyes in a blur the same way the film manifested for its cast. 

It's with tremendous discomfort that you watch as their innocence and humanity is taken from them, wrapped up in a classic story of exploitation and personal gain. Their beautiful familial connection becomes degraded to a stereotype, but by putting The Kids back in the narrative, Martin gives space for the cast to reclaim their identity. 

The film is ultimately a lesson in two things, compassionate filmmaking and exploitation in the industry, both of which remain evergreen conversations. These foundational issues are deep in the heart of the industry and don't just happen in independent circles where intimacy coordinators and ethics departments are non-existent. Eddie Martin raises the issue of how we use stories of trauma and poverty to perpetuate white privilege and maintain the power imbalance in Hollywood. The divisiveness was made prevalent in the documentary, but it's really a question of how the film went so far and made twenty-times its budget at the box office without something to stop it along the way. 

The Kids is screening as part of the 2021 Tribeca Film Festival. 

Ticket information can be found here:


Visit the Harold Hunter Foundation for further info

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