Boys State…..

Boys State…..

Photo credit: Courtesy of Apple TV

“This is a fascinating movie with many twists and turns,” said Amb. Charles Rivkin, CEO of the Motion Picture Association while introducing “Boys State” co-hosted by Apple Original Films at a Zoom screening followed by a conversation with filmmakers Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss along with student and Boys State participant, Steven Garza. Emmy-winning journalist Betsy Fischer Martin moderated. The event also featured remarks from Members of Congress who are alumni of Boys State – including: Senator Steve Daines (R-MT), Senator Tim Scott (R-SC) and Representative David Cicilline (D-RI).

About the film: A thousand 17-year-old boys from Texas join together to build a representative government from the ground up. That which grabbed my attention is how one learns to be so manipulative (others call it competitive) at such an early age. I found that disturbing. Fortunately, the ethical candidate won, so there’s that!

“Having seen this movie,” added Rivkin, “I totally understand all the buzz and excitement because Boys State is a powerful, deep dive into the traditions, the rituals and the whole emotional roller coaster of our American electoral process, which was devised and sponsored more than 80 years ago by the American Legion. You’re going to meet some unforgettable characters as they wrestle in their own individual ways with many of the choices and issues that have been part of our political system. There are some sticky decisions to make. Is charisma the best approach or a more thoughtful policy driven campaign? How do they find consensus not only within their own party, but also in how they reach out to the other side, should they accentuate the positive during the campaign or do they go full hard ball? Of course, as any electoral campaign, the big climax is the election.”

“As a former Boys State myself,  I’m very glad to see this program getting the national attention it deserves. In fact, back in 1979, when I attended Boys State in Dillon, Montana, our keynote speaker was a newly elected us Senator named Max Baucus. In fact, it’s someone I still keep in touch with today. I also met Ryan Zinky, a good friend to this day, that went on to serve as a Congressmen and Montana’s Secretary of the Interior. I was in these young men’s shoes once upon a time. And I was excited to learn about politics and how our government works. And all these years later, it’s great to see the same enthusiasm and interest and learning about our free society and how to become a responsible citizen and a leader. Boys State is a way to meet lifelong friends, introduce yourself to unfamiliar viewpoints, learn about leadership and be a part of something really special. ” Senator Steve Daines (R-MT)

“Boys State taught me so much about leadership and the importance of building strong relationships, a lesson that I have brought with me to my office in the Senate. I made lifelong friends during those seven days at Boys State and my experiences there and I believe they have led me to pursue a life in public service. What you are about to witness in this documentary is how 1000 young men, all rising high school seniors gathered to experience firsthand what governing is, {learn} what it means to lead and what it means to work toward a greater whole, as it was for me. Boys State is a stepping stone on a path to public service. Some of the young men you see in the film tonight may well become the future leaders of this great nation.” Senator Tim Scott (R-SC)

“I want to thank Amanda and Jesse for their work to bring this film to life. And as the only member of Congress to hold a screen actors Guild card, I want to recognize the important work that the Motion Picture Association and the entire film and TV industry do in telling stories that can inspire, provoke and challenge us in ways we never expected.” Representative David Cicilline (D-RI)

“Usually our films start with a big question and then we find our way to the people who bring to life and help to answer these questions. And this question was how has our country gotten to be so politically divided? I think we’re all asking ourselves that and what is our future? What is the way forward? How do we make our democracy healthy? Again, it seems so fragile. And when we started the project in 2017, you know, the country was really riven by division and most people look to Washington and to the national news to help address those questions. But as documentary storytellers, we were drawn to the Texas boys state program because what’s unique about it is it brings these young people together from very different walks of life and very different political backgrounds and it asks them to find common ground to; to find a civil way of engaging with each other which you know from going through the program – that’s not easy to do for anybody. And we wondered, can the boys in Texas do it; can they show us a way forward? That was the impetus to embark on the film . The kind of filmmaking that we love to do is unscripted filmmaking where this story writes itself in front of you and in really surprising, emotional, wonderful ways. In this case, we came away with an extraordinary story, I think.” Jessie Moss

This image released by A24 shows Rene´ Otero, right, in a scene from “Boys State.” (A24 via AP)

There’s so many takeaways. You can learn and grow in so many different ways and you see that at boys state. And I think one of the real values of the film is that we’re talking about a program for teenagers in Texas and around the country; that there’s really a value in this film connecting with young people who are thinking about their own role in our democracy. That democracy is something you have to throw yourself into to find your voice, to take those risks and that you can come to power.” Amanda McBaine

“I think the biggest takeaway for me was that politics isn’t easy and working together isn’t easy, but it’s so deeply necessary. Flash forward to the aftermath of the 20/20 election. I’m determined in my generation that we can never allow ourselves to get to that point ever again, so we have to work together. We have to listen to each other and be empathetic to one another instead of treating each other like the enemy. We’re just all Americans who love this country and at the end of the day we want what’s best for it. We still have a ways to get there, but I think you can bet on my generation that we’re going to do our damned-est to fix the issues of tomorrow.” Steven Garza