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Bullis Stars at Sundance

Shot in DC, Emily Abt's Toe to Toe, which explores the relationship between two female lacrosse-playing students, was a hit at Sundance.

While the Sundance Film Festival was quieter this year because the Obama inauguration occurred at the same time, some Washingtonians made the journey west.

Tackling two complicated local themes—teen sexuality and interracial friendships—Emily Abt’s new film, Toe to Toe, explores the relationship between two lacrosse-playing students at an unnamed Washington prep school—one a privileged but lost white girl acting out sexually, the other an African-American scholarship student with only one goal: admission to Princeton.

Abt, now 34, worked as an intern with DC’s Public Defender Service 15 years ago in Anacostia, and her experience there, as well as a familiarity with the private-school scene from her Bethesda-based extended family, provided the background for a film that captures some of the area’s disparities, competitions, and cultures.

The film was shot last spring on the campus of Bullis School in Potomac, in Bethesda, and in Anacostia and used a mostly local cast, including real-life lacrosse coaches, students, and go-go performers including Anwan Glover, founding member of the Backyard Band.

Another Washington-themed hit at Sundance was the adaptation of Marine Michael Strobl’s journey as a military escort for the remains of 19-year-old Chance Phelps, which became the HBO film Taking Chance starring Kevin Bacon. For Strobl, now a civilian employee at the Pentagon, perhaps the most unusual request during the filming process came when Bacon asked Strobl for his iTunes playlist: “I found out he’s also a musician. I think it was a way for him to get inside my head.”

This article is from the March 2009 issue of The Washingtonian. For more articles from the issue, click here.

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