Clark’s in town!

Controversial film-maker Larry Clark is coming to SA to promote his film, Kids, reports CHARL BLIGNAUT

‘DAD, I’ve never seen anything like that before.” So said photographer and film- maker Larry Clark’s 12-year-old son after watching the premiere of his photographer father’s debut movie Kids. Hardly surprising, considering Kids is one of the most original and contentious movies of the Nineties – dealing as it does with adolescent sex, HIV, drugs and random violence.

Telling the tale of a gang of New York skateboarders, the movie follows the sexual exploits of an HIV-positive teenage boy as he fulfils his mission to deflower virgins. Most critics have hailed it as an elegiac masterpiece that faces teenage realities while others have dissed it as a sordid, unwholesome tale.

Now Kids, originally banned in South Africa and only unbanned on appeal with a no- under-16 age restriction, is about to open here. And Clark will arrive in Johannesburg this Saturday for the premiere on Sunday.

Speaking over the phone this week from New York, he says he is excited about coming to Africa for the first time. He intends staying for a week, also visiting Cape Town and Durban. And he’s bringing his son, who has never been out of the States, with him. His son was, in some ways, a catalyst for the film. Clark started skateboarding with him and got to know the group of kids he was to base the movie on.

When he met cult director Gus van Sant (My Own Private Idaho, Drugstore Cowboy, Even Cowgirls Get the Blues) at a California exhibition of his controversial sex and drugs photographs, Van Sant told Clark that he was an admirer of his work. Clark expressed his interest in making a film and Van Sant offered to produce it. Kids premiered at the Sundance Festival in 1995 and was bought for South African distribution by Anant Singh’s Videovision in 1996.

“I’ve been all over the world with the film,” said Clark this week, “but I hadn’t planned on travelling with it any more.” But he jumped at the opportunity to see a country he’s always been interested in; to spend some valuable time with his son and go on safari.

He regards the South African banning as “kinda funny that they banned a good film”. In response to the movie being used in other countries as an educational piece for teenagers, he says he didn’t set out to make a “message” movie, but rather a “set of images”. Still, he identifies a moral core in the film and feels it is useful to confront people with the realities of growing up in the Nineties. Lobbied for by various anti-censorship groups and the Society for Family Health, Kids has become a cause clbre in South Africa and is expected to engender much debate.

Kids opens on circuit in South Africa on Friday February 28

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