• 70°

MOVIE GUY — Boys State provides fascinating look at America’s political future

Boys State is the annual program sponsored by the American Legion where high school students are given a crash course on the American political system. They gather to form a mock legislature and campaign to be elected as the teenage versions of governors, senators and judges.

I took part in the program in 1983, and while I recall it being a lot of fun, it didn’t ignite a passion in me for political service. I wonder if things might have been different if I’d attended the Boys State at the center on the new Apple+ documentary.

Boys State takes place at the Texas gathering in 2018 and follows a handful of boys as they careen through their mock election process. At its most basic level, this film recreates the tension of a national political race. The filmmakers have been following a handful of the participants, so it’s only natural that we would be invested in the outcome of their campaigns.

But the real power of this film is how it delves into the minds of these young men. These are teenagers who have a budding interest in going into politics when they grow up. Their optimistic views of political service to the country service are inspiring. Then again, some of their jaded thoughts on American politics are also quite distressing.

It’s curious that the film draws such divisive reactions. There are some audiences who see the clear-eyed young men in this film and think that there is hope for us yet. Things look rosy if this is an early portrait of our future leaders. Then again, there are others who note that these young men have already learned the power of mudslinging and smear campaigns. I shudder to think of what the future might look like if they are already so adept at playing dirty politics.

Any film that can stir up such a range of emotions is obviously very well made. Kudos to the filmmakers who reportedly deployed a half-dozen camera teams in order to cover the sprawling event. And credit them for being smart enough in pre-production to be able to lock onto the major candidates, even though they were unknown students mere days before the event began.

It’s not a perfect film. The documentary might have benefitted by showcasing a few other points of view. It should also be noted that, according to my sister, Girls State is where the real drama happens.

Perhaps there’s a sequel to come. Either way, Boys State is a fascinating documentary and a thrilling/terrifying look at America’s political future—a must see for anyone who is a political junkie.

Boys State is streaming exclusively on Apple TV+.

 

Movie reviews by Sean McBride, “The Movie Guy,” are published each week by Port Arthur Newsmedia and seen weekly on KFDM and Fox4. Sean welcomes your comments via email at smcbride@sbgtv.com.

 

Boys State

Apple TV+

Directed by Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss

Rated PG-13