Hill and Bethencourt open their film with an interesting photo of two teenage girls on a swing taking selfies as two nearby boys shoot guns. Image and violence come together in the invigorating prologue, while also showing just how inconsiderate the two are at the moment. It’s just a lazy day in Texas. For the next 90 minutes, Hill and Bethencourt capture many more lazy days in the lives of Automne, Brittney and Aaloni, often revealing things about their pasts and potential future through interviews, but also often seen. just about the middle teens.
Many conversations in “Cusp” are about violence. At parties people tell about how someone they know raped someone, but that’s just the kind of guy he is. The casual nature in which sexual violence is a part of these lives may surprise some, but it is a tragic fabric of this country that often softens when we discuss what it means to be a teenager. Autumn, Brittney, and Aaloni give filmmakers remarkable access to their lives, often detailing abuse from their past and discussing the boys they know. We get to know these three and care about their emotions – for example, it’s heartbreaking when Autumn’s boyfriend breaks up with her, the honest emotion coming off the screen.
A fascinating dichotomy emerges in “Cusp” in that these three young women are so confident and powerful in their own personalities, and yet they exist in a world that doesn’t hear them and threatens them all the time. The filmmakers cleverly watch the shallow image below of teenagers doing nothing but getting drunk and high, instead finding the vulnerable below.
A very different type of documentary takes place in “Street Gang: How We Got To Sesame Street”, which lovingly tells the story of the creation of one of culture’s most important forces, born out of asking if television could educate children instead of just selling them. Based on the book of the same name by Michael Davis, Marilyn Agrelo’s film focuses on the formative days of “Sesame Street” since its inception through mini-bios of its main actors like Joan Ganz Cooney, Jon Stone, Jim Henson, Frank Oz, Joe Raposo and Christopher Cerf. It’s a remarkably likable documentary that will air on HBO later this year, but it feels like it barely scratches the surface of the many stories that could be told about this production. In an era when almost any TV series could have been just a movie, this is the rare case where a movie could easily have been a series. Jumping from topic to topic so quickly, “Street Gang” sometimes feels like it has the attention span of the target audience of the show it is telling.