Later this week, some of the now-fully grown adults from KIDS will reunite at BAM in celebration of the 20th anniversary of the controversial '90s film. On hand will be Larry Clark, Harmony Korine, Chloë Sevigny, Leo Fitzpatrick, and Rosario Dawson, who were all young, and very new to the industry at the time.
This naïveté and their newbie status added to the rawness and realness of the film, which was responsible for Miramax starting a new one-off company called Shining Excalibur Films, just so they could distribute it away from their Disney family—it had an NC-17 rating.
According to the Guardian, the movie showed a very real "day in the life of a group of street kids living in a pre-Giuliani New York City that was gritty and raw." That is not totally accurate, however, as Giuliani took office January 1994, months before principal photography and casting took place for the film, which was released on July 28th, 1995. Still, it was a bit of a different city back then, and Korine tells them:
“It was pre-internet, pre-cellphone, kids had pagers back then. There was a wildness to it, living on rooftops and no one really had houses and no one really cared, that was all pretty accurate. Drugs and the girls and the shadow culture. It was a real, pure street culture. It was street. It was all about the street and never going home.”
The movie was pretty traumatizing to any real "kids" who watched it—at the very least, it certainly helped put the fear into the nation's youth. Meanwhile, adults were equally horrified, but in a more critical way—it got reviews like this one from the Washington Post, which called it “virtually child pornography" set in a "nihilistic never-never land." (Some of the girls in the movie, like Dawson, were under 18.)
For that, Korine believes, “It would be impossible to make that film now," he declares: "You could never get away with it.”