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Trash Humpers
Directed by Harmony Korine
Produced by Agnès B.
Written by Harmony Korine
Cinematography Harmony Korine
Editing by Leo Scott
Release date(s) Toronto Film Festival:
12 September 2009
Running time 78 minutes
Country United States
United Kingdom
Language English

Trash Humpers is a 2009 American drama film directed by Harmony Korine. Using a visual style that mimics a worn VHS home video, the film features a "loser-gang cult-freak collective"[1] and their whereabouts in Nashville, Tennessee. Despite its fictional character, the film won the main prize at one of Europe's largest and most adventuresome documentary film festivals, CPH:DOX - Copenhagen International Documentary Festival - in November 2009.



Actor Role
Paul Booker
Dave Cloud
Chris Crofton
Charles Ezell Twin
Chris Gantry Singer
Kevin Guthrie
Harmony Korine Hervé
Rachel Korine Momma
Brian Kotzur Buddy
Travis Nicholson Travis
Page Spain


Walking his dog late at night in the back alleys of his hometown of Nashville, Korine encountered trash bins strewn across the ground in what he imagined as a warzone. Overhead lights beamed down upon the trash in a Broadway-style that Korine found very dramatic. They began to resemble human form, beaten, abused and “very humpable.”[2] Korine remembered, as a teenager growing up in Nashville, a group of elderly peeping toms who would come out at night. He has described them as "the neighborhood boogeymen who worked at Krispy Kreme and would wrap themselves in shrubbery, cover themselves with dirt, and peep through the windows of other neighbors."[3] Putting these two ideas together, Korine found conception for the film.

As a child of the 1980s, Korine grew in the age of VHS. He remembers his first camera, given to him by his father, and reusing the tape over and over again. “There was something interesting about certain images or scenes bubbling up to the surface.”[4] On the rationale for using VHS as the medium for Trash Humpers, Korine stated “There’s this obsession nowadays with technology and the fact that everything looks so clear. Everything needs to be so high-definition. There was a strange beauty in the analog. You almost have to squint to see things through the grain and the mist. There’s something sinister about it.”[2]

Upset over the bureaucracy in producing Korine’s last and most expensive feature, Mister Lonely, Korine aimed to make his next film as fast as he could, analogous to the free-form immediacy of painter and canvas.[2] As a self-proclaimed mistakist artist, Korine encouraged spontaneity. Like Julien Donkey-Boy, the script was merely a collection of written down ideas. Before filming, Korine shot lo-fi images of people in costumes late at night to help find his aesthetic.[5]

Filming lasted a mere couple of weeks. “Once everyone was in their character and their costume, and I had figured out the structure of it, the randomness, the anti-aesthetic, it was really the performers, the Trash Humpers, walking around at night, videotaping each other doing these things,”[6] Korine recalled. "We would just walk around and sleep under bridges or behind a strip mall somewhere. We’d get these big tractor tires and make a nest to sleep in."[2] Korine adds, “it was pretty intense because there were no breaks. It was just constant.[6] Korine says that he didn't think traditionally about scenes, sounds, or color during filming, but more about being true to a feeling. "If it feels right to me. If there is some strong, palpable, raw quality in the moment then I won't question it."[3] Korine himself plays as one of the Trash Humpers, simultaneously taking on the role of actor, cinematographer, and director.

Korine cut the film on two VCRs to instill an approximate randomness. "I wanted a kind of incidental awkwardness, like maybe the guy taping it had turned it off and on."[2] Korine often cites that in creation of the film he aimed to mimic a found object or artifact. He even flirted with the idea of “leaving the film on a sidewalk somewhere”[2] to be unearthed at random, but ultimately decided he would claim ownership.

At the film’s premiere in Toronto, Korine informed the audience that the title was to be taken quite literally and those prone to walking out were given due warning. Aware of his status as the provocateur, Korine understands his movies aren’t for everyone. “That’s why I named it Trash Humpers, because I didn’t want to fool anyone.”[4] There were only four months between filming started and the world premiere.[6]

For Korine, Trash Humpers is an elaborate portrait of the "American Landscape" : a series of "park garages, back alleyways, and beautiful lamp posts that light up the gutter." Korine has repeatedly emphasized his use of street lamps and how they are for him deeply representative of America.[3]

Korine sees the film as an ode to vandalism. "I have a real deep love and admiration for these characters. Not for what they do, but for the way they do it."[2] "There can be a creative beauty in their mayhem and destruction. You could say these characters are poets or mystics of mayhem… comedic with a vaudevillian horror."[5] Korine wondered "whether this might make mainstream society envious of their social freedom."[3]


Trash Humpers has been compared to Werner Herzog’s Even Dwarfs Started Small and Lars Von Trier’s The Idiots, though the only conscious reference Korine has made to cinematic influence is William Eggleston’s Stranded in Canton, which Korine identifies as having “this liquid home movie photography and accidental narrative.”[5]


Rob Nelson of Variety remarked that the film is highly unlikely to gratify all audiences, and questioned what its notability would have been without the director's "hipster celebrity." However intrigued by the film, he commented the cinematography as having "no small share of perverse beauty, particularly for those who miss the charming imperfections of videocassettes in this squeaky-clean digital era."[7]


  1. ^ Renninger, Bryce (2009-08-06). "11 More for Toronto (including Harmony Korine)." IndieWire. Retrieved on 2009-08-06.
  2. ^ a b c d e f g Ebiri, Bilge. (2009-10-09). "Harmony Korine on How Fatherhood Influenced His New Movie About Having Sex With Garbage Cans." New York Magazine. Retrieved on 2009-10-21.
  3. ^ a b c d Treihaft, Lauren; Brooks, Brian (2009-09-17). "Harmony Korine: 'I’m not going to lie and say that I don’t like provoking an audience'." IndieWire. Retrieved on 2009-09-19.
  4. ^ a b Bilton, Chris. (2009-09-14). "Interview: Harmony Korine." Eye Weekly. Retrieved on 2009-10-21.
  5. ^ a b c Kohn, Eric. (2009-09-30). "His Humps." New York Press. Retrieved on 2009-10-21.
  6. ^ a b c Tully, Michael (2009-09-16). "A Conversation With Harmony Korine." Hammer to Nail. Retrieved on 2009-09-19.
  7. ^ Nelson, Rob (2009-09-16). "Trash Humpers Review." Variety. Retrieved on 2009-11-08.

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