New York, N.Y. – POV, the acclaimed PBS documentary series, announced today that it had acquired the US broadcast rights to Pier Kids directed by Elegance Bratton and produced by Chester Algernal Gordon. The film is the first for the duo’s production company, Freedom Principle, and premiered at DOC NYC. Bratton was recently named the recipient of the ‘Truer Than Fiction’ award from the Independent Spirit Awards, an honor given to an emerging director of nonfiction films.
Pier Kids explores the lives of the Black, homeless queer and trans youth who call the Christopher Street Pier in New York City their home, forging friendships and chosen families. Bratton’s film follows these young people as they navigate their lives, withstanding tremendous amounts of homophobia and discrimination while working to carve out autonomy and security in their lives. With intimate, immersive access to these fearless young people, Pier Kids highlights the precarity and joys of a community many choose to ignore.
Bratton’s own personal history underpins his perspective on the story: he lived in the Christopher Street Pier for ten years after leaving home at age 16. Filming over a period of five years, from 2011 to 2016, Bratton’s return to the pier emphasizes both the resourcefulness of the youths and the oppressive systems that hold them back. Working to fill in the gaps left by the modern gay rights movement, Bratton’s film challenges stereotypes about homelessness and the queer and trans communities that are so often missing from mainstream discussions about LGBTQ issues. Without offering trite or easy answers, Pier Kids is a story about surviving, the barriers to empathy and the love that emerges from solidarity.
"Pier Kids stares down the past fifty years of the Gay rights movement by witnessing the lived experience of Casper, Desean, and Krystal – three Black queer and trans homeless youth. POV sits at the direct intersection of government and art; to premiere on their platform is a dream come true. Its easy accessibility and relationship to change makers gives my film a great base to advocate for the issue of queer youth homelessness,” said director Elegance Bratton. “Every queer person, no matter where they live, is a Pier Kid because Sylvia Rivera and Marsha P. Johnson made a sacrifice so that we can all be free. This is not a film about statistics or celebrity. This is a film that believes the people on screen are the experts of their own lives and, through bearing witness to their truth, viewers will be galvanized to end LGBT youth homelessness.”
“Pier Kids is a film long overdue, and one we hope will provide support to homeless queer youth in navigating their way through society. This film offers poignant insight to the impact LGTBQ+ youth experience without the support of family, educators and community members,” said producer Chester Algernal Gordon. “I hope audiences come away from this film with a better understanding that it is more than just financial resources that change these young lives, it’s compassion, time, inclusion and our collective fight toward equity.”
“It’s a privilege to have a true insider’s view into such a vibrant community, one borne of struggle and joy. Elegance celebrates the lives of these Black queer and trans youth with an unvarnished lens, highlighting their resilience while laying bare the fact that, in many ways, they are just hanging on,” said POV executive producer Chris White.
The Pier Kids deal was negotiated by Justine Nagan and Chris White on behalf of POV and Granderson Des Rochers and Chester Algernal Gordon on behalf of Freedom Principle.
The film has also had an enormously successful festival run. Pier Kids has screened at 46 different festivals across the country, winning awards at Outfest, New Orleans Film Festival, Austin All Genders Film Festival, Mammoth Lakes Film Festival and Indie Memphis.
Bratton and Gordon’s upcoming projects include Hell Fighter, a co-production with Five Fifty Five and Rainshine Entertainment. The documentary will highlight the story of African American Jazz pioneer and music mogul, James Reese Europe, who was a lieutenant in the 369th Infantry Regiment, known as the Harlem Hellfighters. Gordon also served as the costume designer for Port Authority, making him the first non-binary African American costume designer to compete in competition at the Cannes Film Festival. Port Authority will debut in late May 2021. The duo is represented by Gersh, Granderson Des Rochers and Wolf-Kasteler.
POV filmmakers were well-represented at the Independent Spirit Awards this year: Cecilia Aldarondo, director of POV titles Landfall and Memories of a Penitent Heart, and Elizabeth Lo, director of POV Shorts title Hotel 22, each received nominations in the Truer Than Fiction category. The last three winners of the award have been American Documentary filmmakers. Bing Liu, director of Minding the Gap, won in 2019, while Nadia Shihab, director of America ReFramed’s Jaddoland, won in 2020.
Produced by American Documentary, POV is the longest-running independent documentary showcase on American television. Since 1988, POV has presented films on PBS that capture the full spectrum of the human experience, with a long commitment to centering women and people of color in front of, and behind, the camera. It's on POV where American television audiences were introduced to groundbreaking works like Tongues Untied, The Act of Killing and American Promise and innovative filmmakers including Jonathan Demme, Nanfu Wang, and Laura Poitras. In 2018, POV Shorts launched as one of the first PBS series dedicated to bold and timely short-form documentaries.
Over a generation, POV has championed accessibility and innovation in nonfiction storytelling. POV Engage works with educators, community organizations and PBS stations to present hundreds of free screenings every year, inspiring dialogue around today's most pressing social issues. The series' interactive arm, POV Spark, creates and advances experiential forms of storytelling and programming, redefining U.S. public media to be more inclusive of emerging technologies and interactive makers.
POV films and projects have won 42 Emmy Awards, 26 George Foster Peabody Awards, 15 Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards, three Academy Awards and the first-ever George Polk Documentary Film Award. Learn more at pbs.org/pov and follow @povdocs on Twitter, Instagram, and Facebook.
About American Documentary
American Documentary, Inc. (AmDoc) is a multimedia company dedicated to creating, identifying and presenting contemporary stories that express opinions and perspectives rarely featured in mainstream media outlets. AmDoc is a catalyst for public culture, developing collaborative strategic engagement activities around socially relevant content on television, online and in community settings. These activities are designed to trigger action, from dialogue and feedback to educational opportunities and community participation.
Major funding for POV is provided by PBS, The John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation, The Wyncote Foundation, Reva & David Logan Foundation, Open Society Foundations and the National Endowment for the Arts. Additional funding comes from Acton Family Giving, Nancy Blachman and David desJardins, Bertha Foundation, The Hollywood Foreign Press Association's Charitable Trust, Park Foundation, Sage Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council, Chris and Nancy Plaut, Ann Tenenbaum and Thomas H. Lee and public television viewers. POV is presented by a consortium of public television stations, including KQED San Francisco, WGBH Boston and THIRTEEN in association with WNET.ORG.