Film critic Kristian Fanene Schmidt reviews Sundance 2021’s buzziest titles and today’s spotlight is on the documentary At The Ready.

Sundance Film Festival just wrapped up! It’s around that time of year when Hollywood descends upon Park City, Utah (with all its problematic aspects, to be sure!). Or at least in theory, because our arses are still stuck in a pandemic.

That’s okay since they’ve made everything available online. I am quite happy to screen movies, sans snow, from the comfort of my bed. More importantly, it’s great that the festival is the most accessible it has ever been.

Those who can’t afford to kiki in the mountains with the industry elite can finally tune in for the first time without picking up a tab for flights, accommodations or overpriced pizza that ain’t even good. With a record number of people attending the festival this year, I hope they keep this up!

And on that note, here’s a rundown of my thoughts about At The Ready at the Sundance Film Festival 2021.

WARNING – Potential spoilers ahead for this At The Ready Sundance review

As someone who grew up in Aotearoa (New Zealand), this documentary gave me a clearer picture of the indoctrination that takes place in schools around law enforcement.

While I understand that this super aggressive approach could be unique to El Paso given its location and the politics surrounding it, I think it still offers viewers an idea of the extent the government goes to in order to exploit students in poorer schools—catch ‘em when they’re young and impressionable so they can do the dirty work on the front lines. I imagine military education in JROTC is quite similar.

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Despite having family across the border and even living on the other side of it themselves, the doco features several Latinx kids completely sold on Trump’s anti-immigrant invasion rhetoric. The brainwashing exists not only at school, but at home too.

This willingness to demonize your own people and take part in their oppression (or turn a blind eye to it, neither of which are unique to this situation) was quite evident among both the adults and children. By contrast, we saw the internal conflict in others who were fully engaged in the same Criminal Justice Club but resisted it in one way or another.

The documentary was definitely educational and brings up a whole intersection of issues that the community has to contend with: immigration, identity, racism, classism, incarceration, homophobia and just being a kid who wants to give back to your parents and make them proud. I enjoyed the group’s breakthroughs, especially seeing Mason starting his transition journey and living more freely as himself in San Antonio, away from an environment where it wasn’t safe to do so.

Check out Deadline‘s Sundance chat with the director and producers of At The Ready:

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