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Is Boys State a True Story?

August 14, 2020
3 min read

‘Boys State’ is a film that has the potential of becoming one of the most compelling, entertaining, and well-received documentaries of 2020. From seasoned filmmakers, Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine, comes this sensational movie that has already won the Grand Jury Prize for documentary at the Sundance Film Festival. Focusing on a group of teenage boys from Texas, it is an immersion into a week-long annual program within which high school students gather at one place to take part in an elaborate mock exercise to build their own state government. The focus is on learning about politics from first-hand experiences and completely understanding state discourse and governments.

Is Boys State Based On A True Story?

Of course! ‘Boys State’ is a completely true story. Nothing in the documentary is elaborated or blown out of proportion to look good on camera. Everything that happened to Ben Feinstein, Steven Garza, Robert MacDougall, and Rene Otero in this documentary, happened to them in real life. It can’t get truer than that. Telling the story of these teenagers, who took part in this annual American Legion program of the same name, we think its safe to describe ‘Boys State’ as the perfect blend of reality, coming-of-age, and history and civics lessons. In this particular program, around 1,100 high school students gather at Texas Capitol in Austin, Texas, every year to build their government from scratch.

Each of these 1,100 individuals is randomly assigned to two parties despite their personal beliefs – the Federalists and the Nationalists – and then, they have to work together to create a fully-functional democracy. From forming local and statewide infrastructure to developing and passing policies, to holding elections, within a single week, they have to do it all. As we saw, though, these 16-17-year-olds take part in it not just as voters. They completely immerse themselves in the political world and debate with each other to find everything – from their State Party Chairman to their Governor, and from their District/State Attorneys to their State Board of Education.

This program – which began in 1935 – exists in all fifty states to help guide the future generation of America on the right path and to let them know how important it is to take part in politics, even if it is just as voters. Among its alumni are personalities like Dick Cheney, Cory Booker, and Bill Clinton, which is why they were all featured in the movie’s opening credits. Even Bruce Springsteen and Jon Bon Jovi took part in it. Remember how Steven Garza said that they should just do People State instead of Boy State and how someone replied something about there already being a Girl equivalent to it? Well, it’s true, Girls State also exists, and it has been present in all 50 states since 1984.

However, the reason why the creators focused on this particular Boys State is because they had read the 2017 headline about them deciding to vote on the secession “legislature” that allowed them to withdraw from the Union and the United States. It was the first and only time that something like this had happened, and so, they decided to follow up on it. Although this documentary was filmed in the summer of the following year, its premiere in 2020 seems like perfect timing. ‘Boys State’ lays down some very fundamental things about the nature of politics and the downsides of having a party system, which, considering the coming elections, can open a lot of voters’ eyes.

Read More: Where Is Ben Feinstein From Boys State Now?

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