Thin Line Fest’s line up of short docs this year (February 18-22) includes a truly delightful six-minute flick full of twists and turns.
The Dead Enders unfolds in the heart of the Fort Worth Stockyards National Historic District. There, just off old, red-bricked Exchange Avenue where cowboys work the famous cattle drives twice a day, sits the Cowtown Cattlepen Maze.
It’s a game, all in good fun, right? But contestants are serious, brows knitted, creating alliances to work together. Somewhere in the maze are four letters: M A Z E. “Find them in any order, punch your card, then get out, and you win,” says Bill Gibbons, the man who owns this giant attraction.
While players of all ages try to tackle the Cowtown Cattle Pen Maze every day, the film’s contestants are ages 6, 9 and 4. The doc is aptly named, our contestants hitting dead-ends again and again. They follow short cuts, go in circles they don’t realize, and battle confusion one dead-end after the next. “It’s super-duper hard,” says one.
But they do not quit.
The story kind of reminds me of life. The stuff worth getting to is rarely a straight shot. In fact, some of our goals look pretty easy to reach from the starting line. Then we step out and find our way forward riddled with challenges like shortcuts that go nowhere, dead-ends that seemed so promising from afar, and retracing steps we thought we had left behind for good.
But we keep on keeping on. Because dang it feels good when we finally reach the prize, better perhaps because of everything we went through to make the finish line.
One dead-enders summed it up perfectly. “I feel happy.”