Cusp: Isabel Bethencourt and Parker Hill’s Docu

Isabel Bethencourt (right) & Parker Hill - Cusp
Courtesy of Subject
Isabel Bethencourt (right) & Parker Hill

In a seemingly tranquil meadow, a kid in his late teens in NRA country fires off several rounds from an assault rifle.

However, Cusp is not about that boy–it’s about the underage teenage girls he and his mates are trying to impress.

Acquired by Showtime Documentary Films, Cusp focuses on three adolescents, Aaloni, Autumn and Brittney, around age 16, during the waning days of summer in a rural Texas town. The girls’ main pastimes are dominated by boys, booze and blunts.

In this particular context, questions of sexual consent become murky. Their surroundings appear both pastoral and bleak, and free-floating anxiety seems to prevail.

Bethencourt and Hill, photographers making their directorial debut, met the girls by chance on a road trip. They then embedded themselves in their lives, capturing them at their most vulnerable. “We gained mutual trust through time, genuine curiosity and, most of all, bonding over our shared experiences of girlhood,” explain Bethencourt and Hill.

The mini crew consisted of two, with one shooting while the other recorded sound. They traded duties, using mostly natural light and a minimal filmmaker presence: “We wanted it to feel like it was all from their world, so we leaned into what was already available.”

The feature won the U.S. Documentary Special Award for Emerging Filmmaker at the 2021 Sundance Film Fest.

They claim to have been drawn to “photographers who have captured girlhood and scenes in interesting and distinct ways, like Melissa Ann Pinney, Lauren Greenfield, Justine Kurland, Nan Goldin and so many others.”