BOYS STATE – A Review by Cynthia Flores

BOYS STATE – A Review by Cynthia Flores

Suppose you’ve ever wondered how young people get into American politics. In that case, this fantastic new documentary Boys State about an annual event from directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss is for you. The beginning of this brilliant documentary opens with a quote from President George Washington’s farewell address setting the stage for what is about to come.

“[Political parties] are likely to become potent engines, by which cunning, ambitious, and unprincipled men will be enabled to subvert the power of the people and to usurp for themselves the reins of government.”

Nationally, the American Legion has sponsored the summer program since 1935. Boys State (and the gender-separated, Girls State) is a national civics education program designed to immerse high school juniors into public governance nuts and bolts. It is also a take-no-prisoners battle for victory. At the core of the weeklong event is the pitting of two fictional parties—Federalists and Nationalists—against one another. They battle in a contentious campaign for Governor and other key positions for which there can only be one victor.

This documentary covers the Boys State from 2018 in Texas. The program is a week-long annual summer program where over one thousand two hundred high school students gather at the state capital for an elaborate mock exercise: building their own state government. Pay attention to the opening credits as they go by, and you will see the kind of alumni that have come from Boys State events around the country over the years. Political names as varied as Dick Cheney to Corey Booker and pundits like Rush Limbaugh.

The filmmakers closely track the escalating tensions that arise within a particularly riveting gubernatorial race. Training their cameras on unforgettable teenagers like Ben, a Reagan-loving arch-conservative who brims with confidence despite personal setbacks. And Steven, a progressive-minded child of Mexican immigrants who stands by his convictions amidst the sea of red. You follow these often-earnest young men through their travels of contemporary American politics. This is a microcosm of our often dispiriting, national political divisions that nevertheless manages to plant seeds of hope.

Boys State is fast-paced and surprisingly engaging. It feels more like you are watching a close football game as the story unfolds. It’s filled with people you will fall in love with and others that show scary soulless political possibilities that will chill you to the bone. You can’t help but cheer out loud from your seat as the candidates you are pulling for make a move towards potential victory. The documentary was the winner of the Grand Jury Prize for documentary at this year’s Sundance Film Festival.

I give Boys State a 5-star rating. It will be on our must-see lists for 2020.


Directed by: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss

Rated PG-13

Selig Rating 5 Stars

Running Time: 1hr 49min


Virtual Theatrical Release: August 14th on Apple TV+


The Selig Rating Scale:

5 Stars – Excellent movie, well worth the price.

4 Stars – Good movie

3 Stars – OK movie

2 Stars – No need to rush. Save it for a rainy day.

1 Star – Good that I saw it on the big screen but wish I hadn’t paid for it.

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