By Liz Lopez

Rating: A

The documentary At the Ready has been in the festival circuit starting with Sundance Film Festival 2021 and went to three other festivals before screening at the Cine las Americas International Film Festival here in Austin followed by the Bentonville Film Festival this summer.

The film now has a release date of October 22, 2021 in theaters and VOD. Here is my festival review:

Director Maisie Crow (previous feature, the Emmy-winning Jackson) is the director and cinematographer for the feature documentary At the Ready available for viewing during the Bentonville Film Festival this week in the Competition Documentary Features category. Crow highlights the law enforcement education program at Horizon High School in El Paso. This extracurricular training program is comprised of all teenagers, some of them who will seek employment after graduation and explore the law enforcement field as a stable job in the city located on the Texas – Mexico border. Crow captures footage of the students learning about no-knock warrants and active shooter procedures. Some of the scenes are not easy to watch as the teens carry out the actions required by law enforcement officers (future security guards, police, border and immigration officers). In one way, At the Ready generates inspiration for showing a high school providing training for students about the realities of a potential career in law enforcement. On the other hand, watching the toll this takes on some of the minors can be cause for concern. There are images of these young students running through simulated classrooms with fake guns and it can be disturbing, if not stomach turning.

Crow, as cinematographer, films most of her subjects from a distance in the school corridors or an intimate family conversation in the kitchen or otherwise. These settings appear very authentic. Editing is by Nina Vizcarrondo and Austin Reedy to create this very moving film. The 2019 El Paso mass shooting is not a part of this story.

Among the several students in the training program are three central Mexican American teenagers who enter the program with ideas about what it may mean for them, but they gradually evolve as the 2018-2019 school year proceeds. These teens are seeking financial stability for themselves and their families to prepare for an unknown future with the reality of their parent’s situations. As a spectator of this film, we see how the students are eager to find a solution to securing a good job, but ultimately see the realities of the real cost of pursing that field. 

Duration: 96 minutes

Language: English & Spanish

Country: USA Year: 2020

Source: Distributor: Gravitas Ventures

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