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Texas Standard

Here Are Six Films At Sundance With Texas Ties

stills from 2021 films featured at sundance film festival
Courtesy of Sundance Institute: "Ailey" photo by Jack Mitchell | "Land" photo by Daniel Power Copyright Focus Features LLC 2020 | "Jockey" photo by Adolpho Veloso
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Stills from "Ailey" by Jamila Wignot, "The Blazing World" by Carlson Young, "Land" by Robin Wright, "Jockey" by Clint Bentley, "Cusp" by Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt and "At the Ready" by Maisie Crow.

From Texas Standard:

You can break down the 2021 Sundance Film Festival features with Texas connections into two basic categories: films by Texans and films about Texans. This selection is also evenly split between two genres: documentary and narrative features.

At The Ready

A documentary about students at an El Paso High School who are interested in pursuing careers in law enforcement.

Director Maisie Crow says 900 schools in Texas have “some sort of criminal justice class or program.” As a Marfa resident herself, who covers the complexities of life along the U.S.-Mexico border through her work as editor-in-chief of the Big Bend Sentinel and Presidio Internacional newspapers, Crow told Texas Standard she was especially interested in exploring the role of law enforcement in Far West Texas.

“One of the things I love most about El Paso is its relationship to Juarez,” Crow said. “It really is one city divided by a border, and these kids really do live a cross-border life. I mean, they have community both in Juarez and in El Paso, and that was very important to me to make that clear in the film.”

Cusp

Another Sundance documentary about Texas teens, “Cusp” follows three young women over one wild summer in an unnamed “military town” in Texas. While directors Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt don’t hail from Texas, they met the Texas teens featured in the film while on a road trip through the Lone Star State.

Hill and Bethencourt received a Special Jury Award for “Emerging Filmmaker” at the festival.

Ailey

Relying on both archival footage and new interviews, “Ailey” is a documentary about Rogers, Texas, native Alvin Ailey – the poetic and groundbreaking dancer-choreographer with a lasting legacy.

“Ailey” recently made a deal with Alamo Drafthouse-affiliated production company NEON.

The Blazing World

Made by Texans in Texas, parts of this “Alice in Wonderland”-meets-horror film don’t look anything like the Hill Country.

The film is the feature directorial debut for Fort Worth native Carlson Young. She also wrote and stars in the film. Austin-based producer Brinton Bryan told Texas Standard shooting in the Texas capital city was their first choice.

“Austin has a really thick history of outside-the-box filmmaking,” Bryan said. “And we kind of realized very quickly that there was nowhere else we could have shot this film during the pandemic because of the necessity of that kind of spirit in approach to it.”

Land

Another feature directorial debut comes from actor Robin Wright, who was born in Dallas. Wright also stars in this sprawling portrait of a woman trying to escape the dark cloud of grief. “Land” is coming to theaters Feb. 12.

Jockey

A film by Texans Clint Bentley and Greg Kwedar of Dallas and Austin, respectively. Though their last film together focused on the border, “Jockey” is more universal. It’s about an aging horse jockey searching for fulfillment.

Sony Pictures Classics acquired “Jockey” just ahead of its Sundance premiere. Star Clifton Collins Jr. was awarded a Special Jury Award for Best Actor.

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