For over 80 years, the American Legion has been the driving force behind Boys State, a nationwide program aimed at helping high school students gain a greater understanding of the political process. Annually, teenagers descend on college campuses in every state of the union, where they have a hand in creating their own governmental system over the course of a week, with campaigns and elected officials and the whole nine yards.

The documentary “Boys State,” directed by Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine, is currently available for streaming in Apple TV+. The film premiered at Sundance, where it won the U.S. Documentary Competition Grand Jury Prize. It’s a look at the 2018 edition of Texas Boys State, following a handful of young men as they make their way through the weeklong process. We meet boys from different walks of life, with different ideologies and inclinations, as they navigate the vagaries of Boys State.

It is one of the most compelling pieces of documentary filmmaking we’ve seen in some time. The portrait that it paints is of a group of young people who are reflections of the greater political climate that surrounds them. It is a movie that moves from sweet inspirational moments to unexpected gut punches, illustrative of the wildly swinging political pendulum in which these kids have spent their entire lives. The juxtaposition of innocent optimism and surprising cynicism makes for compelling watching; you can’t tear your eyes away from these kids, regardless of where you may fall on the ideological spectrum.

Published in Livin'


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