Boys State (documentary)


Boys State is where budding, 17-year-old political nerds go for a week to form mock governments, hold elections, impeach one another, and so forth. (They have it for girls, too, and I bet it’s VERY DIFFERENT.) All 50 states have the program; the documentary “Boys State” follows the one in Texas in 2018. The kids are randomly divided into two parties (Nationalist and Federalist), then told to come up with party platforms and elect party leaders and a governor. The week culminates in an election between the two governors to see who is president of Boys State.

Directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss did a terrific job forming a narrative. Not knowing ahead of time who would turn out to be important, they must have followed all of the candidates, then whittled it down into an engaging story with multiple moving parts. The parallels to real-world adult politics are amusing: Some kids are earnest about wanting to be public servants; some are opportunistic and will say anything; some are conniving villains and agents of chaos.

Also amusing: Since it’s Texas, the only political issue anyone cares about is the right for everyone to have immediate access to guns at all times. One of the boys tries to make points with an anti-abortion platform (not even an exception for rape!) because he thinks it’s what his Texan audience wants to hear — but the audience, being exclusively male, doesn’t care one way or the other.

B (1 hr., 49 min.; PG-13, some profanity.)