Take Aways: Reflections on Pier Kids

by Abbie Gladwin

Take One Action’s ‘Take Aways’ initiative commissions aspiring film critics, creatives and/or community activists to conduct an interview with a filmmaker or protagonist from the films featured in our programme. By connecting young people interested in film and social change with the protagonists or directors/producers behind these films, this project aims to invite a reflection on the connections between local struggles and global realities, while showcasing the talent and insight of the authors and supporting the development of their own practice.

I’m Abbie (she/her) – I am a mixed media Artist from Edinburgh, Scotland. I’m passionate about Film & TV, wildlife, nature and music. I love adventures and taking my cat out for walks in my garden.

I was given an amazing opportunity to interview Elegance Bratton, the director of Pier Kids (2019) on Sunday the 21st September 2020. Pier Kids is about the lives of young, queer people of colour living on the streets of New York. The film shows the struggles they face, which include rejection from family and racial discrimination, and how they find support in one another as they gather at Christopher Street Pier. I ended up watching the film twice, as it is very powerful and gives you a clear insight into the lives of these young marginalised individuals.

Elegance Bratton (credit: Gioncarlo Valentine)

I asked Bratton what he thought was the hardest artistic choice when making the film, and his response was that he had over 400 hours of footage to use but the film is only 84 minutes long, which must have been an incredibly difficult task to edit down. He said that ​Pier Kids​ is a ​vérité film— a type of documentary film that combines improvisation with the use of the camera to unveil truth or highlight subjects hidden behind raw reality. Bratton then explained it’s a non-linear kind of storytelling approach and having to cut out footage was hard. I mentioned the
importance of giving the participants in his documentary a voice, and his response was thoughtful. “To me, it’s like – giving a voice. I look at it more as listening to the voice, you know,” Bratton said.

A man walking down a street cups his hands and looks into the distance.
Still from Pier Kids

One of my favourite parts of our discussion was Bratton’s passion for art and how he enjoys how paintings are made, because you can see all the detail in every brushstroke. “Like a Caravaggio painting. When you add up all the brushstrokes, it’s kind of overwhelmingly amazing,” he said. “Like— wow, like— this all started with one stroke. And look at what that one stroke turned into.” As an artist myself, that was something that I can relate to as I enjoy seeing the process of art being made.

Read Abbie’s full article here.

Take One Action’s Take Aways initiative is supported by Film Hub Scotland, part of the BFI’s `Film Audience Network, and funded by Screen Scotland and National Lottery funding from the BFI.