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'Boys State' captures political division through the lens of future leaders

August 13, 2020. Summarized by summa-bot.

One of the year's best documentaries, "Boys State" presents a fascinating look at teenagers brought together for an exercise in government, which somehow manages to unerringly encapsulate partisan divisions in the US right now.

(CNN)One of the year's best documentaries, "Boys State" presents a fascinating look at teenagers brought together for an exercise in government, which somehow manages to unerringly encapsulate partisan divisions in the US right now.

Situated in Texas and sponsored by the American Legion, Boys State is described as a "week-long experiment in self-governance" -- a sort-of summer camp for student-body-president types, putting them through the process of electing a legislature and governor and actually proposing legislation.

Yet the intense lobbying and campaigning exposes fractures within our society, as well as flashes of a win-at-all-costs mentality -- including dirty tricks and tribalism -- that sadly appears to have permeated politics all the way down to our youth.

The kids have clearly absorbed talking points and tropes from the media they consume, as evidenced during the opening speeches when one loudly proclaims, "Our masculinity shall not be infringed!"

Ultimately, the film zeroes in on the candidates for governor representing the Nationalists and the Federalists, and especially Steven Garza, whose progressive views put him at odds with many -- there's a lot of talk about protecting Second Amendment rights -- yet whose personal charisma wins some less-outspoken attendees over to his side.

"Sometimes you can't win on what you believe in your heart," one kid says, admitting that his stated opposition to abortion rights is not where he really stands on the issue.

A hit at the Sundance Film Festival, "Boys State" has been acquired by Apple TV+, which will hopefully give the film the platform that it deserves.

If these children are, to quote the song, our future, the sobering message from "Boys State" lies in what we're teaching them about morality, principles and their relationship to governance right now.

"Boys State" premieres Aug. 14 on Apple TV+.

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