‘Cusp’ directors Parker Hill and Isabel Bethencourt on documenting impact of toxic masculinity on teenage girls

“Growing up is I don’t think I saw enough stories about complex female characters,” admits “Cusp” co-director Parker Hill. For our recent webchat, co-director Isabel Bethencourt adds, “We really wanted to show what it looks like to be a girl and how normal it all feels, but then also the darker realities of of what they’re going through.” Watch the exclusive video interview above.

“Cusp” is a verité documentary for Showtime that follows three teenage friends as then navigate life, family and relationships during a Texan summer. The pair of photographers-turned-directors shot the feature after meeting Brittney, Aaloni, and Autumn on a roadtrip. Hill describes, “We were on a photo road trip, and we met the group of girls at a gas station at three or two in the morning. We got to hanging out and became fast friends. That’s how this story came about. This just happened organically.” Bethencourt continues, “We were so captivated by the freedom of their youth in the feeling of summer and excitement.”

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The film delves into the impacts of toxic masculinity as the girls reveal their experiences of agency in relationships and feelings of judgement. Hill says, “When you’re younger, you’re at such an age where you’re still figuring out how much is in your control.” Later she reflects, “We live in a culture that promotes not saying how you feel and burying your emotions. We learned so much about how that pervades men and women and families. Everyone is struggling through it, everyone is hurting. We hope that the film promotes talking about how you feel. If we keep biting our tongues, this system is going to keep going.”

Towards the end of the film, Autumn has a discussion with her father about whether she can fix a painting that is too dark. Hill says, “It is speaking to way more than just painting.” Bethencourt, who received the painting as a birthday gift, reveals, “Whenever I see it I go, ‘I hope you learn you can put the light paint over the dark paint.’ But it is a very beautiful painting nonetheless. It’s a great reminder of something you lean in teenage-hood. The dried darkness is always going to be a part of you, but there are ways forward; there’s paths through it.”

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