Tuesday, November 2, 2021

At The Ready Review: A Fascinating Look At Our Police State Through Young Eyes

Release date: October 22, 2021
Running time: 90 minutes
Directed By: Maisie Crow

Ten miles from the Mexican border, students at Horizon High School in El Paso, Texas, are enrolling in law enforcement classes and joining a unique after-school activity: the criminal justice club. Through mock-ups of drug raids and active-shooter takedowns, they inch closer to their desired careers in Border Patrol, policing, and customs enforcement. We follow Mexican American students Kassy and Cesar and recent graduate Cristina as they navigate the complications inherent in their chosen path and discover their choices may clash with the values and people they hold most dear.

At The Ready is a far more balanced look at police and our border than I would have expected.  It starts with an example of the extreme training that these kids go through in pursuit of their dreams.  The club that they joined is teaching all sorts of police techniques, including breaching and clearing, finding and handling evidence, and taking suspects into custody.  I was surprised at the level of training that these kids received, the serious mentality that they take into these exercises, and the types of feedback that they received.  It was like true police training, yet these kids are in high school.  And the way that they all have ideas of what they want to be when they grow up and have a path past high school was really interesting to see. 

But what I loved most about this documentary is the balanced look it gives to a very complicated issue.  I expected this to be very one sided, either for or against the militarization of police and their use at the border, but like all issues, this is a complicated one that At The Ready addresses with care.  It looks at the views of agents and teachers, and of these students themselves.  Some have very mature and well thought out viewpoints on this, as the the methods of policing and protecting the border have very real effects on them, their peers, and their own family.  And I really loved seeing the nuances that were presented to these kids. The debates between the kids were interesting to watch, you had different viewpoints expressed but done so in a cordial, respectful manner.  It's both a wonderful thing to see and a sad contrast to the rhetoric we see adults throw around for this subject.

And I also loved seeing the interaction of the Latino community in this area to the thought that these kids would become border agents.  Many of their parents are proud of them, that they are going to be protecting the community and making a good salary in their career.  And the kids themselves have very mature thoughts on this, recognizing the difficulty of being a Latino border patrol agent and what that means for their interactions with that community.  If there are negatives with this film, it is that it ends far too abruptly.  It follows one of the characters afterwards, but I wanted to know about many of the folks we have met.  But overall, this is just an interesting and balanced documentary.

At The Ready looks at a complicated societal problem through youthful eyes, giving insights into policing and immigration with a care and nuance that belies the high school setting. 

Watch it.

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At The Ready is available in digitally and on demand on October 22, 2021.  

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