Boys State (2020) dir. Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine
Venue: Harrie Massey LT (25 Gordon Street)
Boys State follows a bunch of high-strung Texan teens as they head to the Capitol in Austin to engage in political machinations. For decades the American Legion has sponsored "Boys State" events ostensibly in order to improve education in civics. A kind of summer camp for political junkies, this week-long event begins with the 1200 or so kids divvied up into separate parties – the Nationalists and the Federalists – and then tasked with picking party leadership, defining a platform, passing bills and, above all, electing a governor that represents the entire group.
Superficially Boys State plays as a conventional film about a grand event, not dissimilar to reality TV that follows a few key characters out of the myriad that attend the event. Jesse Moss and co-director Amanda McBaine pitch most of the film on the shoulders of four participants, with the result being a simply astonishingly powerful and nuanced look at the machinations of politics.
As exciting as a sports movie and as nail-biting as any election night, Boys State is an instant classic, immediately inducted into the finest of political documentaries thanks to its impeccable filmmaking, the serendipitously excellent cast of participants, and its impeccable timeliness to shed light on the forces that shape contemporary elections. It's exquisitely constructed with unforgettable moments.
‘I don't hate the man. Never will. I think he's a fantastic politician. But I don't think a fantastic politician is a compliment either.’