Film Review: We Were Once Kids is a look at those infamous skater teens after they grew up

In the mid-90s a little film named Kids was released. It became a phenomenon that catapulted its stars into the mainstream consciousness. We Were Once Kids is a documentary that looks behind the scenes at the original filmmaking process, while also asking the question, “Where are they now?”

Eddie Martin directs this film, which is written by Hamilton Harris. The latter is one of a handful of original cast members who are interviewed here. The documentary does feel a tad incomplete at times, as there are some notable individuals missing from this project including A-list stars, Chloë Sevigny and Rosario Dawson, who made their film debuts in Kids.

The cast of Kids was made up of young teens, with little to no prior acting experience, who bonded over a mutual love of skateboarding. Many had come from broken homes or were teen runaways. Director Larry Clark would befriend them. Clark’s motivations were unclear, but many believe he saw only the money that could be made from the talented youngsters – although to be fair, they thought they could ‘use’ him too. Harmony Korine‘s script dialled up the drugs, sex, and violence to eleven, and audiences loved it.

This documentary questions the ethics of the original filmmakers. The project proved to be a very lucrative one but its young stars received only a miniscule fraction of the financial spoils. Some of the cast members would try their hands at acting. Sadly, there were some that met with tragic ends; Justin Pierce would take his own life, and Harold Hunter would die from drug-related complications.

New York City’s streets were once brutal places. This film certainly captures that and the vulnerable teenagers who bandied together to inhabit it, blending both archive footage and talking head interviews together. It ultimately weaves together a complex, human story that throws up as many questions as it answers.

In essence, We Were Once Kids shows that there are no simple ways to handle complex social issues. Human beings are complicated creatures and this film throws up the many shades and textures associated with that. Kids may have been all about the violence, drugs and sex, but this documentary is all about looking behind the veil at the underlying friendships that drew this ragtag group together. Heady stuff.


We Were Once Kids is in select cinemas from June 1.