Film directors Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt were on a road trip from Montana to Texas when they met the teenage girls who would become the center of their documentary.
“We were getting gas at 2:30 in the morning on the last night of the trip and a pickup truck pulls up next to us and the girls are running around the gas station and they’re screaming at each other and they’re blasting music. And we just were so shocked to see this, like, ball of energy in the middle of a kind of dead, middle-of-the-night gas station. And we thought, ‘Well, we have to talk to them,’” Bethencourt told Texas Standard.
So they did talk to them. In fact, they hung out with them for several hours and decided to stay in touch. That turned into them making a film together: “Cusp.”
“‘Cusp’ is a largely observational film that follows three girls in rural Texas as they grow up over a summer, and it sort of looks at the highs and lows of girlhood and young adulthood,” Bethencourt said.
The specific name of the town remains unnamed to help preserve privacy, but also because it makes it more of a universal story.
The directors say they took seriously the experiences of their teenage subjects because, too often, the experiences of teenage girls are dismissed.
“Everyone’s experience matters, and you shouldn’t even dismiss your own experience,” Hill told the Standard. “I think a lot of what people are going through is, like, unknowingly common. … We were really struck by how casually and often the girls, boys, groups of friends, they would talk about things like rape and sexual assault. And they were all very matter of fact about it, as if it was kind of like an inherent part of growing up for them.”
Part of the healing of that trauma was the act of filmmaking itself.
“They all kind of speak to, like, hoping that other people get the confidence and courage and comfort to feel safe to open up about what’s going on,” Hill said.
Hill and Bethencourt were awarded a Special Jury Award for emerging filmmakers at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival. “Cusp” was also an official selection at the 2021 Austin Film Festival.
“Cusp” is showing in theaters in New York and Los Angeles and will be on Showtime’s streaming platform on Nov. 26.