From Sundance to AFI DOCS and even the would-have-been SXSW, “Boys State” has been the documentary darling of this year’s festival circuit. Directed by Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine (who previously collaborated on 2014’s “The Overnighters”), “Boys State” centers on a group of teenage boys from Texas who join together to build a representative government from the ground up. With the Sundance Grand Jury Prize for Best Documentary under its belt, the acclaimed film is an early contender for the Best Documentary Academy Awards race. A24 opens in select theaters on July 31 and debuts globally on Apple TV+ on August 14. Watch the first trailer below.
Here’s the synopsis: “‘Boys State’ is a wildly entertaining and continually revealing immersion into a week-long annual program in which a thousand Texas high school seniors gather for an elaborate mock exercise: building their own state government. Filmmakers Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine closely track the escalating tensions that arise within a particularly riveting gubernatorial race, training their cameras on unforgettable teenagers like Ben, a Reagan-loving arch-conservative who brims with confidence despite personal setbacks, and Steven, a progressive-minded child of Mexican immigrants who stands by his convictions amidst the sea of red. In the process, they have created a complex portrait of contemporary American masculinity, as well as a microcosm of our often dispiriting national political divisions that nevertheless manages to plant seeds of hope.”
“Juggling several mini-profiles over the course of an election cycle that gets dirty, ‘Boys State’ goes a little too soft on its subjects, attempting a balanced perspective at a moment that demands more partisan insight. Nevertheless, it manages to capture the systematic forces behind American leadership, and why it always seems like such an uphill challenge to put the good guys in charge,” wrote IndieWire’s Eric Kohn out of the Sundance Film Festival. “Because ‘Boys State’ doesn’t take sides, it leads to the open-ended conclusion that its subjects could either fix the country, or keep fighting through the wreckage with no end in sight.”
The story behind the film’s funding, and its journey to a $12 million sale to A24 and Apple in Park City, is also interesting, as Concordia funded development of “Boys State” based on a two-page pitch, just months before the annual Texas program was set to begin.