Behind every film production comes a unique story. That’s the beauty of show business; no single directorial vision or process is alike to the other. Regardless of your personal investment with the content being produced — there will always be a noticeable presence of humanity, both behind and in-front of the camera. As long as films are continuously created by humans, and not by the clutch of artificial intelligence; every film will have its own unique quirks, from the pre-production process all the way to the film’s fine-cut. Some stories, though, are admittedly far more ugly in contrast with other production tales. Twilight Zone: The Movie, Last Tango in Paris, and — the prime focus of Eddie Martin’s latest non-fiction feature — Kids (1995), are all notable titles that have issued numerous ethical concerns over the past few decades.
In the aptly titled documentary The Kids (2021), Martin investigates the lives of the original cast from Larry Clark’s controversial film. Highlighting the drug epidemic that infiltrated public housing units and other Black-populated neighbourhoods throughout New York’s hectic streets from the 1970s to present day, The Kids comments on the social exploitation in which each of the cast members had to face, both before and after the shooting of Clark’s feature. Martin’s empathetic documentary illuminates topics on class privilege, systematic racism, and the effects of mental health in the face of popularity and social adversity, throughout his dense document regarding artistic integrity and the adjacent ethical concerns.
Self-contained with various harrowing interviews from the original non-professional group of actors who were once the poster-children of the American indie film scene in 1995, The Kids utilises rhythmic editing and engrossing analog B-Rolls for successful dramatic effect. Even with its conventional portrait-mode execution, Martin consistently provides enough visual flavour to not only diversify his testimonies, but also to justify the film’s medium of presentation. Ironically however, one could argue that the compact subject matter could have warranted a longer runtime; or even a completely different format in & of itself. Already consumed by various cut-to-black cuts, The Kids often feels eerily episodic in both its structure and timing of key emotional beats.
Perhaps a television format would more appropriately suited Martin’s gripping exploration on the cultural context and aftermath of the production behind Clark’s applauded feature debut. The story in question runs deep in many different interconnected testimonies and revealing critiques on the American Dream; where a short 90-minute feature is just merely serviceable enough for the attention in which the subject matter truly deserves. But for what it specifically achieves as both an engrossing investigative piece of non-fiction filmmaking — Eddie Martin’s The Kids is a staggeringly relevant film all about the power of resentment, exploitation, and the importance of accountability.