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A still from <i>At the Ready</i> by Maisie Crow, an official selection of the U.S. Documentary Competition at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. Courtesy of Sundance Institute.

Movie Reviews

Another Take: ‘At the Ready’ illuminates border life at an El Paso high school

At the Ready follows three student members of the Criminal Justice Club at Horizon High School.

At the Ready is a poignant film that will resonate with anyone who has ever experienced life on the border. Centered around three Horizon High School students, Maise Crow’s documentary explores their daily lives as it pertains to their involvement in the Criminal Justice Club. Adolescents face many obstacles, but these obstacles become entrenched in global affairs when living in El Paso, Texas, a large multi-cultured city on the U.S Mexico border. 

At the Ready, which premiered at this year’s Sundance Film Festival, shows how the designations of citizenship are blurred when two cultures thrive off of each other. Situated ten miles from the border, Horizon High School not only offers an education to students in the district, but many students cross the border from Juarez to attend school in El Paso.

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This is not unique to students as many workers from both El Paso and Juarez commute to jobs in their neighboring country. That being said, At the Ready showcases the real experiences students face as they grapple with immigration, family dynamics, and cultural expectations.

The Criminal Justice Club is run by former and current law enforcement officers. The teachers are inviting and provide a second family for the students. Crowe shows how for many students, the club can shape their identity, build confidence, leadership skills, and provide guidance. The instructors keep their biases at bay while encouraging critical thinking with discussion. Set during Beto O’Rourke’s senator run against Ted Cruz, immigration issues took center stage at the debates and sometimes drifted into the classroom. 

The film’s subjects:  Cristina, Cassandra, and Cesar grapple with a dilemma most adults have difficulty addressing. Cristina is a recent graduate who is torn between taking a job with the U.S Border Patrol and dealing with her sentiments about immigration and family separations at the border. Mason, formerly Cassandra, is looking for a place of acceptance. He turns to the Criminal Justice Club for a sense of family. Cesar is an impressive student in the Criminal Justice Club who shows a great potential for a career, but  is torn between spending time with his father. 

Crowe’s documentary shines by letting the teens share their voice. Key moments in class show the dynamic of students who have been educated together, but have developed their own principles and way of thinking. Crowe’s documentary is respectful of the students and their families and sensitive to their individual situations. At the Ready gives an intimate look at teen life on the border of two worlds. 

At the Ready will be available in theaters and VOD on Friday October 22nd.

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