IFFR KINO #12: Gummo

On Wednesday 3 January we organise the last IFFR KINO before the start of IFFR 2018 at the end of January, and it features Harmony Korines shocking and powerful debut film Gummo (1997). His portrayal of white trash America is a peculiar and crude picture of a lost generation.

Gummo is set in Xenio, a small and dreary town in Ohio which was almost destroyed by a tornado some years before. The film centres on a number of outsiders, one of whom is called Solomon, a skinny 14 year-old boy with a mother who is as violent as she is disturbed. Solomon's best friend, 19 year-old Tummler, lives with his alcoholic father who since long lost all authority and never recovered from Tummler's mother's death.

The two friends spend their time sniffing glue, killing stray cats for money, and by generally being up to no good. They lack any moral compass. This weird, introvert world also features the two white-haired siblings Dot and Helen who are being pursued by a shabby tabloid reporter, a man who pimps his feeble-minded daughter and Bunny Boy, a half-naked skateboarder donning a hat with huge pink bunny ears, who is met with bewilderment and violence everywhere.

Gummo actually consists of a series of brief 'moments' and follows its own stylistic and narrative rules. Jean Yves Escoffier (Les Amants du Pont Neuf) signed off on the cinematography and managed to capture the characters in a bright, saturated light in picturesque compositions, cut with images made with Polaroid, VHS and Super 8 cameras.

Korine wrote the scenario for Larry Clark's Kids (1995) at the age of 19, and was only 23 when he made his debut with Gummo. He instantly made a name for himself as a rebellious, non-conformist talent - a reputation that was further strengthened by later films like julien donkey-boy (1999), Trash Humpers (2009), and Spring Breakers (2012), which were all shown at IFFR.