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On Guard - A Story Of American Youth

  • Showtime: Fri, Feb 10th @ 4:30 PM

  • Runtime: 1:20:00

  • Directed By: Allen Otto

  • Rating: GA

  • Genre: Drama

  • Filmmaker In Attendance

Screening followed by Q&A with the filmmaker.


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 students are brought together by their passion for the unheralded, All-American sport of Color Guard.

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. Yet, 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 Shocked by the proximity of the close attack - a fresh-faced principal scrambles to revise outdated safety measures.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 and aim to qualify for the WGI 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. Healthcare is too expensive, so doctors visits happen across the border. Poverty is rampant and aspirations are limited.

However, as America continues to crumble with chaos, uncertainty and COVID-19; the hopes, dreams and futures of these girls are tossed to the wayside.

What begins as a traditional sports documentary about an underdog team of teenage girls from El Paso, turns into something much larger; An intimate glimpse into the lives of Mexican-American girls 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, On Guard for whatever the world throws at them next.

Director Bios:

Allen Otto

Allen is a queer director, producer and activist originally from San Antonio, Texas. He obtained his BA in Radio-Television-Film from the University of Texas at Austin and his thesis, Psycho Billy, was nominated for the ASC Student Heritage Award. Over the years, Allen has built a consistent track record in creating critically acclaimed and award-winning long-form documentaries. His work as co-creator and producer of the LGBTQ+ documentary series, Gaycation with Elliot Page, received two Emmy nominations, two GLAAD Media Award nominations, and won an Imagen Award for Latino Representation.

Additionally, he co-created and produced the series VICE Does America, a seven-episode half hour TV show that follows three journalists as they zig-zag across America in an RV during the 2015 Presidential Primaries.

Prior to that, Allen was an associate producer across the first three seasons of VICE (HBO), where segments he helped produce were recognized with two Emmy Awards and an additional two nominations.