By Gregory Crofton
I tried to stick with “Attica,” a new documentary about the 1971 prison riot in Upstate New York, but it was dry and newsy — I felt like I had already seen it as soon as a put it on.
Got into “Storm Lake” next. It’s about a newspaper that does great work for a small community in Iowa, still it struggles to pay the bills because of the Internet and its affect on the paper’s dwindling circulation and advertising revenue.
Then it was on to “Dean Martin: King of Cool,” about the legendary actor and singer. It’s a really good film. Watched it in pieces, and always came back eagerly. The doc tells the inside story of his career, but doesn’t really crack into his emotional life because, well, that just was not possible to do. Martin was his own special kind of stoic. He liked his private time, loved to golf, yet always at ease in public, wildly talented, and loved by most everyone.
The film that made me sit up and and take notice was “Cusp,” the story of three teen girls growing up in Texas. The doc immediately lit up my computer screen with its well-framed shots, rich colors and raw youth. The young women featured in it muddle through days of adolescence, dealing with issues of sex and and controlling parents.
It’s shocking when these underage girls begin to speak openly about their sex lives — and this taboo subject is what gives the film its spine — but beautiful sunsets and shots of Texas Americana are what make this story hum.
“Cusp” was directed by two young women, Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt. This must have been key to unlocking a kind of intimacy rarely if ever captured on camera. Hill and Bethencourt recount, on their film’s website, how they first met the teens at a gas station.
IT ALL STARTED AT A GAS STATION AT 2:30 AM
We were on a road trip from Montana to Austin, on a mission to photograph the American teenage summer. It was our last night, and we were filling our final tank at Stripes before heading home in the morning. A truck pulled into the lot, blasting music, and slammed to a stop. Girls hopped out of the cab, barefoot, laughing and yelling. We asked to take their photo, and they invited us back to Toni’s house where they were going to swim in the river. After hanging out for a few hours, jumping into pitch black water and talking about their histories, we made fast friends. To our surprise, the girls were instantly open with us; they had so much to say about their lives, like no one had ever asked them before. They were eager to voice their own experience, as if in some way they felt overlooked by their town, their schools, and their parents.
As the sun rose, they added us on Instagram, and we all left—them to Denny’s, and us to the airport, knowing we had to go back to Texas.
‘Cusp’ premiered on Showtime Nov. 26.