Sundance 2021: At the Ready

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

At the Ready is a documentary that looks like one type of film on paper before providing viewers with a twist in the film’s second half.

The film focuses on a group of Mexican American students in the criminal justice club at Horizon High School in El Paso, Texas.  These students also take law enforcement classes.  They are only ten miles away from the border between the US and Mexico.  As you can imagine, people have very strong feelings about the border.  Those feelings aren’t only limited to the people living in Texas but hundreds and thousands of miles away in other states.  In Texas, however, criminal justice is a pretty popular track.  The Texas legislature enacted legislation that allows for criminal justice training programs in high school.

Filmmaker Maisie Crow focuses on three students in particular: Mason (Kassy at the time of filming–he has since come out as transgender)*, Cesar, and Cristina.  All three plan to pursue a career in law enforcement.  It’s one way to a six-figure paycheck in a short amount of time!  But what happens once they realize that pursuing such a career will go against some of their values?  And then you get into the second half of the film where you see what sort of culture class is really going on.  You see the core players start to open up about whether this dream is meant for them or not.  This comes at the same time of then-Congressman Beto O’Rourke facing off against now-seditionist inciter Ted Cruz in 2018.

It’s interesting to watch a film about law enforcement when people don’t have strong feelings towards law enforcement.  I’ll hold on to this thought for a bit.  At the Ready reminds us just how much the border scrutiny is impacting lives.  The economic impact along the border alone.  But more than this, Crow seeks to examine how this impacts the students who live there.  When you reflect on the past four years, the border wall plays a huge role.  But what about the American residents who live there?  Moreover, Texas is one of the states that makes it tough to be openly LGBTQ outside of Austin.  I really feel for Mason especially with Texas frequently attacking transgender rights in every which direction.

The first half and the second half feel like two different films.  I don’t mean to say this in a bad way but this is a film were the political reality forces a change.  Human lives are impacted not only by the decisions being made in America’s capital but in Austin, Texas, too.

The River and the Wall‘s Hillary Pierce is among the film’s producers.  Having Pierce on board as a producer drew me to check out the film.  I’m glad I did because this is worth talking about even if law enforcement is not a popular job right now.

DIRECTOR:  Maisie Crow

* denotes that I am using the deadname in this one instance in terms of the film’s context.  I prefer not to use deadnames because it’s transphobic violence and please note that Mason prefers he/him pronouns.

At the Ready holds its world premiere during the 2021 Sundance Film Festival in the U.S. Documentary Competition.

Danielle Solzman

Danielle Solzman is native of Louisville, KY, and holds a BA in Public Relations from Northern Kentucky University and a MA in Media Communications from Webster University. She roots for her beloved Kentucky Wildcats, St. Louis Cardinals, Indianapolis Colts, and Boston Celtics. Living less than a mile away from Wrigley Field in Chicago, she is an active reader (sports/entertainment/history/biographies/select fiction) and involved with the Chicago improv scene. She also sees many movies and reviews them. She has previously written for Redbird Rants, Wildcat Blue Nation, and Hidden Remote/Flicksided. From April 2016 through May 2017, her film reviews can be found on Creators.