A tumultuous year for many other reasons than simply politics–though one can argue the action (or lack thereof) of the government has had a direct result in the current situation we are now in–the importance of the democratic process is ever more clear, particularly in electing leaders that have at least an ounce of humanity.
Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss’ new documentary Boys State, the top winner in its category at Sundance, is a perfect example of such a process, exploring how a group of young people gather to be immersed in and perform the step-by-step process of American democracy in a condensed yet exhaustive period of time. Picked up by A24 and Apple for $12 million–setting the record for a documentary sale at a festival–it’ll now arrive in theaters at the end of July ahead of an Apple TV+ launch in August, and the first trailer has landed.
I said in my review, “As they did in their prior film The Overnighters, Moss and McBaine are able to subtly sink into the fabric of their surroundings. Working on a bigger canvas his time around, they mainly focus on these four subjects, and it’s remarkable that not only do they seem to capture every crucial moment as events happen across the campus, but it’s how they intimately capture everything vital on the fly with a genuine dexterity and craft. As these boys give speeches to hundreds or have private conversations about their planning, the camera always feels like we’re directly next to them.”
See the trailer and poster below.
Boys State is a wildly entertaining and continuously revealing immersion into an annual, week-long program in which a thousand Texas high school seniors gather for an elaborate mock exercise: building their own state government. Filmmakers Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine 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. In the process, they have created a complex portrait of contemporary American masculinity, as well as a microcosm of our often dispiriting national political divisions that nevertheless manage to plant seeds of hope.
Boys State opens in select theaters on July 31st and on Apple TV+ on August 14.