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Larry Clark selects Drake Burnette

The cinematic provocateur on Marfa Girl's lead non-actress Drake Burnette

Cinematic provocateur Larry Clark: “I liked Drake immediately. We ended up Skyping for four hours, and I was so impressed I asked her to immediately come to Marfa. She and a friend drove straight from Shreveport and... she is the ‘Marfa Girl’. She was incredible, extraordinary, and did everything I asked of her and more.”

Controversial photographer-turned-filmmaker Larry Clark – the man behind such cultmovie classics as Kids (1995) and Ken Park (2002) – is back with his first feature film in seven years, Marfa Girl. In classic Clark fashion, the film stars mainly non-actors, with the titular lead played by 26-year-old Texan beauty Drake Burnette, as a privileged young member of the outsider-art world. “She’s very open with her body and her sexuality, but she’s also very naive,” says Burnette of her character. “She’s basically a gender-equality activist, but she pursues her activism through her personal sex-life. She wants to be a player, and to be able to do whatever the fuck she wants, and to be respected for it too.”

New to acting, Burnette, a recent art-history graduate of the University of Texas, was put in touch with the director by a mutual friend. It only took a video chat before Burnette was in her car on her way to Marfa, Texas, where the film is set. “It happened so fast, and I was totally freaked out,” she says. “I’m a huge Larry Clark fan. I think his work is so brave and beautiful, and also interesting from an anthropological standpoint. He’s been able to capture so many subgenres of American youth culture, and in a way that’s intimate, raw and timeless.”

Marfa, a town of just 2,000 people, is located near the US-Mexico border, a good 200 miles from anywhere. “Marfa is one of my favourite places on earth,” says Burnette, who grew up in Austin. “It has an epic landscape of rolling plains, and it’s surrounded by mountains. In the 70s, minimalist artist Donald Judd bought up a bunch of land and put up permanent installations, turning Marfa into a worldwide minimalist-art destination. It’s the juxtaposition of the art scene, the natives, and the constant fixture of the US-Mexico border patrol that makes up the basic skeleton of the film.” She pauses. “Well, that and other classic Larry Clark themes, like innocence, sexual exploration and disenfranchised youth, of course.”

The movie is only available on the director’s website. “Because the art theatres are disappearing, I can never get a rating,” says Clark. “Everyone I know under 35 watches their media on their computer, so why not just go straight to the people, and cut out the Hollywood distributors and crooks?”

Photography by Larry Clark