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Film Review: Boys State (2020)

IMDb Link: Boys State (2020)
Directors: Amanda McBaine, Jesse Moss
Starring: Ben Feinstein, Steven Garza, René Otero

Synopsis: A thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up.

In a year of many political documentaries, whether it is about the handling of the pandemic or the political system in America over the past four years, this might be the most important one of them all. As much as we can document the current situation, it is important to educate and watch how the younger generation – the future leaders – perceive this and learn from these experiences. These 17-year-old boys are going to make an impact in the future, and these are the people who we need to watch for.

The system of the Boys State in Texas, as well as the Girls State which is brought up but not shown in this documentary, is one that I was unfamiliar of before this film. However, it is one that makes for an interesting subject matter. It is smart that the opening title cards for this film starts by showing famous politicians and leaders who were a part of the Boys State program when they were young, setting up the stakes and showing that there is potential for any one of these boys to become powerful in politics for the United States, whether that is Republican or Democratic.

Boys State is divided into two parties that form representation of the parties in the US right now: the Federalists (Republican) and the Nationalists (Democratic), and the documentary shows both sides of the parties and why each boy has chosen what party they will help represent. Each side is given a fair chance to represent themselves, and I think each boy is given a chance to shine and to show where their political beliefs align as well as the other skills they have, such as public speaking.

The main focus of this documentary is on Steven Garza, a young boy who decides to campaign to be the Governor for the Nationalists. He is the person that comes off the best in this film, not just speaking about his political beliefs but just him as a person. He is confident, he is great at public speaking, yet he is also passionate about the subject and genuine to every other person who is attending. I also found myself drawn to René, who is given quite a harsh time but overcomes it and has a great potential ahead of him as well.

It is quite scary to see a few of the beliefs that these boys have, and to also be aware of the potential they have to continue these beliefs forward. One debate that struck me was about abortion rights, and whether abortions should be banned so that couples waiting to adopt can instead have a better chance at becoming parents. Whilst I am not here to talk about my political beliefs, I would like to see the same team direct a Girls State equivalent and see what 17-year-old girls make of the same topic and their beliefs. Whilst it was not necessary for this documentary, it would make a fascinating comparison piece.

Regardless if you are a US citizen or not, this is a film that demands to be watched. These people in the documentary are the potential political leaders of the next generation and it is important to see the impact they can make and what can become of them. Some of the boys here are terrifying, but there is reason to be optimistic and to know that there are good people getting into politics and that the future may be bright. This is a scheme that I feel should exist in most countries, as more young people should be getting involved in politics and aiming to make a difference in the world in the near future.

Rating: 4 out of 5.

Boys State is available to watch now on Apple TV.

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