For director Elegance Bratton, his documentary Pier Kids, about LGBTQ+ homeless youth at the Christopher Street Pier, is personal. A formerly homeless youth, Bratton arrived in New York City at 16 after his mother kicked him out of his New Jersey home for being gay, he explains in a short video called u.
For Pier Kids, Bratton filmed and immersed himself in the lives of three Black queer young people, Casper, Desean, and Krystal for five years as they navigated the streets of New York City with the famed Christopher Street Pier as their home base.
"The film follows these three over the course of five years to understand what it means to be Black and queer 50 years after Stonewall and show the intricate ways people of color utilize public space to build a chosen family," according to a synopsis.
The film premiered at Los Angeles's film festival Outfest last year. Now it's playing at the Bentonville Film Festival in Arkansas, which runs August 10-16. Other film festival screenings are in the pipeline as the culturally important documentary seeks distribution.
"In a country where more than half of the homeless youth are LGBTQIA people of color, it is time for movements around gay rights and homelessness to be more inclusive and not just limit themselves to what closely resembles the status quo. We owe it to Marsha P. Johnson and Sylvia Rivera to advocate for these queer young people of color," Bratton tells The Advocate in a statement.
"With Pier Kids, I am hoping to illuminate this community and their resilience. Even in the face of rejection, queer people have the capacity to strengthen and raise each other up. I am hoping this film will compel others to action and foster an important dialogue around queer youth and homelessness."
In the exclusive clip below, Krystal LaBeija (named for the pioneering ballroom icon Crytsal LaBeija) engages in a painful phone conversation with her mother who refuses to accept her daughter's trans identity. The clip highlights Krystal's strength and resilience in the face of personal adversity.
Get tickets and information about the now-virtual Bentonville Film Festival.