New York, NY — JUNE 22, 2021 — What does life look like for LGBTQ+ youth fifty years after Stonewall? Pier Kids, directed by Elegance Bratton and produced by Chester Algernal Gordon, transports audiences to New York City’s historic Christopher Street Pier where homeless queer Black youth navigate the streets to find safety and stability. The film shines a light on an underground community of Pier Kids, showcasing the intricate ways queer people of color utilize public space to build chosen family. This hopeful portrait exposes a side of New York City many often choose to ignore.
American Documentary | POV is proud to announce the broadcast premiere of Pier Kids on August 2, 2021 at 10pm (check local listings) on PBS. POV is American television's longest-running independent documentary series, now in its 34th season. The film will be available to stream for 30 days, from August 2 to September 1, 2021 on pov.org. Pier Kids received an award for Best Documentary Feature for AGLIFF (2020). Director Elegance Bratton was the recipient of the ‘Truer Than Fiction’ Independent Spirit Award (2021).
Filmed over the course of five years (2011-2016), the LQBTQ+ community are at the heart of Pier Kids, offering brief glimpses into many individuals' lives. While Pier Kids introduces many regulars to the Piers, the film provides intimate access to the lives and feelings of Casper, Desean, and Krystal. The sudden appearance and disappearance of new faces mimics the reality of The Piers, a place that offers something close enough to home, and is regarded as a ‘safe zone’ by the vulnerable young people who frequent the area. The film also illustrates the precarity of a heavy police presence in a community where sex work is the only means of survival for many.
“People died during the making of this film,” Bratton states. “People were gay bashed and assaulted by police. People also just plain disappeared. It is important that the world know their stories so that these injustices stop. I am making this film to honor the legacy of this historic safe space for Black and brown queer people. I made this film as a way to help Black families understand what happens to their queer children after they’ve been kicked out. Most importantly I made this film to redirect the modern gay rights movement in support of the people started it, black and brown homeless queer youth.”
Desean, in one scene, recounts his struggles to find housing stability and support after aging out of the foster care system, stating, “I’ve thought about getting HIV because it would be easier to access resources if I was positive.” Krystal, a trans woman, has established her chosen family, and takes on a mother role to other youth in need of housing and assistance. But, sometimes, she herself needs help from her biological family; she struggles to maintain those bonds while having her womanhood challenged or invalidated. Casper, a queer skateboarder, relates what it was like to come out to his family, and the challenges that have faced him since.
“Witnessing the lives of all the participants in the film has been transformative for me. They've shown me that everyone is evolving” said Algernal. “Every day they choose to live another day, fight for their rights and demand more for themselves. Resilience and courage cannot adequately describe how our participants have overcome the systems of oppression brought upon them. Sharing their dreams of inclusivity and understanding make this story special.”
"Pier Kids is a brilliant documentation of found family, friendship and acceptance. Chronicled in the film is a bittersweet mix of both the inclusion young people find at the Piers and the isolation many of them face in their everyday lives. It is told sensitively, authentically and lovingly. I am so proud that POV can present this film," said Erika Dilday, executive producer, POV | executive director, American Documentary.
With intimate, immersive access to these fearless young people, Pier Kids illustrates the value of public space for brown and Black queer bodies to become their most realized versions of themselves, along the way highlighting the joys and resilience of a community many choose to ignore.
Director: Elegance Bratton
Producer: Chester Algernal
Executive Producers: Terrence Nance, Sabaah Folayan, Seth M. Rosen
Editors: Bernhard Fassenfest, Thuto Durkac Somo
Music: James Newberry
Approved publicity photos available here.
About the Filmmakers
Elegance Bratton – Director
Elegance began making films as a US Marine after a decade spent homeless.Today, he holds a BS from Columbia University (2014) and MFA from NYUTisch Graduate Film (2019).Walk For Me, his debut narrative short is about Hannah, a young trans girl who’s secret life is discovered by her mother at a gay ball.The film played in over 100 festivals worldwide including winning Best Student Short at the New Hampshire (2016), Best LGBT Short at Anne Arbor Film Festival (2017), Best LGBT Short at Columbus Film Festival (2017) and Best Short at the Austin Gay and Lesbian Film Festival (2017) amongst many other awards.
His documentary feature Pier Kids, follows three queer and trans homeless youth on NYC’s iconic Christopher Street Pier to show the intricate ways queer people of color utilize public space to build chosen family.With Pier Kids, Elegance is the winner of Best Poster for Indie Memphis, Best Documentary Feature for AGLIFF (2020), EmergingTalent for Outfest 2019 Documentary Feature.The film is also nominated for theTruerThan Fiction Independent Spirit Award 2021.
He is the executive producer/creator of Viceland’s GLAAD-nominated and Cannes MIPCOM winning series, MY HOUSE. The Inspection, his forthcoming feature narrative script is supported by Tribeca All Access and Film Independent Fast Track and Producing Labs (2019). The film is being produced by A24 and Gamechanger. He is one of Indiewire’s 25 LBGT faces to watch (2019) and the winner of the Mayor Biggers Artist Fund grant (2018). Buck, his most recent short had its world premiere at Sundance Film Festival 2020.
Chester Algernal Gordon – Producer
Chester Algernal Gordon has produced a fleet of acclaimed short films and Spirit award nominated feature documentary,’Pier Kids’. Gordon was a winner of theTribeca Film Institute’s 2019,TFI All Access Grant andTFI Pond5 Grant. Gordon is a Film Independent 2019 Producing Lab & FastTrack Lab fellow. Gordon’s films have been an official selection at over 200 festivals combined including Sundance, BFI,True/False, DOC NYC, New Orleans, Cleveland, Palm Springs, Blackstar and the American Black Film Festival. They’re also a producer for the MIPCOM 2018 winner – GLAAD nominated documentary TV series, ‘My House’, on Viceland. Gordon’s latest short “-Ship:AVisual Poem” won, best U.S. Narrative short at the 2020 Sundance film festival.They’re currently producing ‘The Inspection’ with Effie Brown and GameChanger films and ‘Hellfighter: The James Reese Europe Story’ with 555 Productions. Both films are directed by Elegance Bratton.
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