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Officially Selected for the Festival Season 

May 2024

ON GUARD: A Story of American Youth

ON GUARD: A Story of American Youth


Allen Otto


Jim Czarnecki


Selected for the following category(s)

Best Documentary Feature

Set in the border city of El Paso, Texas - this energetic documentary follows an all-girl team of high school students connected by their passion for the unheralded, all-American sport of Color Guard, as they compete in the wake of tragedy, navigate the universal trials and tribulations of adolescence and come of age in an era unlike anything America has experienced before. 

OVERVIEW: On Guard is a coming of age story as told through the eyes of five teenage women of color growing up in an era unlike any other. 

Set in the border city of El Paso, TX - a region thrust into the forefront of political issues plaguing the nation - the film takes viewers into the hierarchal hallways of Bel Air High School where a determined, all-female team of Color Guard performers aim to take their team to the WGI World Championships.

 Bel Air High School is located just three miles from the border wall separating the US and Juarez, MX. The student population there is 97.7% hispanic and 76% of students come from households living in hyper-poverty (less than $16k/year). Yet for our teenage protagonists a preoccupation with the latest gossip and finding the perfect prom dress heavily outweigh the importance of politics. 

The return to school this year would also mark what became the largest attack on the Latino community in modern history. A gunman kills 23 people at a Wal-Mart within walking distance of the school. Shocked by the proximity of the close attack - a fresh-faced principal scrambles to revise outdated safety measures. 

As their own unique way of grappling with the reality of the larger world, the team of teenage girls decide to create a performance dedicated to the victims of the massacre - with the goal of taking their show to the World Championships - set for April 2020. 

For Bel Air’s Color Guard Team, a proud group of Mexican-American women, participating in a militaristic, patriotic sport feels natural - yet the irony of teenage girls carrying fake rifles in the wake of a mass shooting and political unrest, is palpable. The events happening around them are seemingly unconnected to Color Guard, affecting their lives deeply. 

What begins as a semi-traditional sports documentary about an underdog team of girls from El Paso, turns into something much larger; An intimate glimpse into the lives of young women of color growing up in America today. Told over the course of three years, audiences watch as they navigate the universal trials and tribulations of adolescence, discover their own identities and ultimately come of age in an era unlike anything America experienced before. 

The story ends on a new generation of young women, connected by their shared experiences and On Guard for whatever the world throws at them next.

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