Filmmaker Maisie Crow was visiting a Texas high school to speak to students in a video production class about her career behind the camera when she saw something shocking. A group of teenagers were making their way through the hallways, SWAT team style, brandishing red plastic guns.
“I was taken aback,” says Crow. “It was at a time when people were talking about school shootings, so it was kind of stunning.”
More from Variety
It turned out that the students were participating in a criminal justice club, which put them in the orbit of law enforcement officers in order to lay the groundwork for a future career as police officers or border patrol agents. That chance encounter inspired Crow’s new documentary, “At the Ready,” which premieres at this year’s Sundance Film Festival on Jan. 31. What makes the film so compelling is that it grapples with hot-button issues like immigration from the perspective of a rising generation of Americans who happen to live just a few miles from the border. But what makes “At the Ready” particularly counter-intuitive is that many of the students who desperately want to patrol that border are Latinx. Some of them even have family and friends who are directly impacted by the Trump administration’s harsh immigration policies.
“I was surprised at the response to the way Latinos voted in the 2020 election,” says Crow. “People were so shocked that Latinos would vote for Trump. But people are so mistaken in thinking that everyone who is living on the border thinks and votes a certain way. Living on the border is complicated and it’s nuanced. There’s so many contradictions and complexities. If we don’t understand that we’re just going to constantly disagree and we’re not going to have the outcomes that any of us desire when it comes to border security.”
To that end, “At the Ready” follows a collection of students at Horizon High School in El Paso as they train to become law enforcement officers and grapple with the morality of that career. Crow shot the film as the child separation policies were roiling the country and during the contentious U.S. Senate race between Ted Cruz and Beto O’Rourke, an election in which Cruz ultimately prevailed.
Even though Trump has left office and Joe Biden has entered the White House, Crow thinks many of the issues explored in “At the Ready” will continue to be polarizing.
“The Biden administration has said they’ll reunite families, but there’s still going to be a lot of controversies and complexities to deal with,” she says. “And the reasons these kids want to join the border patrol will still be there. Where they live, it’s easier to get a job in law enforcement than in pretty much any other field.”
“I’m happy that I was able to explore what was happening on the national stage through these students,” Crow adds.
Here’s an exclusive clip from “At the Ready”:
Best of Variety