The HBO Original documentary trilogy God Saves Texas will debut Feb. 27 on the HBO Network, and all three parts will also be available to stream on Max the same night. The series presents three stories from Texan filmmakers Richard Linklater, Alex Stapleton and Iliana Sosa as they offer distinct Perspectives on their hometowns. Returning to their hometowns to shed light on an underrepresented story, the filmmakers chronicle the complex history of each city, exploring how it intertwines with their own provenance and evolution, and placing it in the larger picture of America today. The trilogy is inspired by the book God Save Texas: A Journey into the Soul of the Lone Star State by Lawrence Wright.
Part one, God Save Texas: Hometown Prison, directed by Oscar nominee Richard Linklater, debuts on HBO Tuesday, Feb. 27 at 9 p.m. ET/PT. Part two, God Save Texas: The Price of Oil, directed by Emmy winner Alex Stapleton, and Part Three, God Save Texas: La Frontera, directed by Iliana Sosa, will debut back-to-back on Wednesday, Feb. 28 at 9 p.m.
GOD SAVE TEXAS: HOMETOWN PRISON
Huntsville is the capital of the Texas prison colossus, with seven prisons in the area and one quarter of the town’s adult population incarcerated. In his second documentary, Linklater, whose Huntsville background has informed several of his feature films, takes on the divisive and heated issues of the penal system in his home state which upholds the death penalty despite waning popularity and where nearly 1,000 people in Huntsville alone have been legally put to death. For many Huntsville locals, the prisons occupy another universe distinct from their own. For others, they provide much needed employment. Linklater chronicles the lives of everyday men and women whose lives are affected by the business of incarceration and death that looms over their town. In conversation with old friends and classmates, correctional officers and lawyers, death penalty advocates and protestors, Linklater lays bare a thorny, symbiotic existence of the town with its incarcerated, painting a multi-faceted picture of the criminal justice system in Texas.
GOD SAVE TEXAS: THE PRICE OF OIL
Houston born and raised Stapleton turns her lens on her hometown to chronicle the impact of the Texas oil industry on Houston residents, specifically Black and disenfranchised communities, including the lives of her own family, who arrived in Texas in the 1830s as slaves and have stayed in the state for nearly 200 years. Tracing her personal story as a descendant of slave owners, Stapleton widens her focus to show how Black history is vital to the Texas oil boom, yet has largely been left out of the history books. Despite representing 13% of the U.S. population, Black and brown people only make up 6% of the oil and gas workforce, with few in leadership positions, and historically, their neighborhoods are more likely to suffer the encroachment of refineries and chemical plants. Residents of Pleasantville, a Houston housing community developed in 1948 for Black veterans and their families, and similar “fenceline” communities risk exposure to elevated levels of toxicity and pollution.
GOD SAVE TEXAS: LA FRONTERA
In her poetic exploration of El Paso, Texas, Mexican-American filmmaker Sosa unveils a city woven with vibrant Mexican heritage, its essence textured by the coexistence and division along the border shared with Juárez, Mexico. As Sosa traces the fluctuating nature of America’s relationship to migrants from south of the border, she invokes the concept of “Nepantla,” a Nahuatl word for a state of “in-between-ness,” suggesting a frontier land with blurred edges where first-generation immigrant children straddle two cultures, navigating a complex sense of identity and belonging.