Boys State

August 12th, 2020




Watching Boys State will send a little bit of glimmer into your heart about the future. Not a massive amount. You won’t have a heart that glows like Iron Man. I can’t even say the future of politics will be entirely better, but with people such as Steven Garza working to get into public office, I think the United States will be alright. Boys State is a documentary about a camp held in Austin, Texas every year, with some 1,200 kids, age 16-18, all with aspirations of going to illustrious colleges and someday holding a position of political office. It’s not a guarantee, but it is a good start for all the tools needed to be involved in a democracy. Directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss capture just about everything you could want to learn, from how the kids pick their positions of office, the personalities of a few of the popular kids, and the emotions of a final vote. Boys State is a well crafted documentary, sometimes poking fun at itself, and still showing a sign of hope for our future.

The unexpected part of Boys State is the wave of emotions you will feel watching it. As it started out, I was a bit repulsed at the thought of a camp that could be a breeding ground for conservative and liberal men for our future politics. The groups are split into the Federalists and the Nationalists. And there’s something quite authoritarian about it all, especially in scenes where young men express their hate for abortion when they have undoubtedly never had sex. Does it make me comfortable to know there’s a camp where more people will think and talk like a Ted Cruz or a Donald Trump? Hell no. But what Boys State has are these moments where everyone gets along, no matter what you believe. That is both scary and harmonious. It has moments where men communicate with points and facts in a calm manner, and it has a human factor that I did not see happening.

There are multiple people that Boys State follows, but the star of the documentary is Garza. His introduction begins with him wearing a Beto O’Rourke shirt and the lone kid not able to hug a parent because they are both at work. Immediately you notice that Garza has a good heart. He speaks the truth, his personal truth, as a son of an immigrant, and someone who helped organize the Houston chapter of the March For Your Life rally. He runs for the top seat of Governor and McBaine and Moss follow his experience at the camp as like a mini-political campaign, complete with debates and speeches.

Since it is a camp there are moments of fun. We witness moments where the kids are laughing at childish joke proposals and a segment midway through of the boys showing their hidden skills for a mid-camp talent show- seriously I would like a Christopher Guest-style parody of this somehow. But although it has moments that are light, these are students that take this very seriously. The other kids we meet all have their sides. Rene Otero is the calm, collected house leader. Federalist chair Ben Feinstein is a hardline conservative and a double amputee to show how strong he is for his age. And then there is Garza’s competition- Eddy Proietti Conti who is called a young Ben Shapiro. The sides of the two are complete opposites, creating a tense build to the final results.

For me, Boys State worked from start to finish. I still don’t know if I am on board with the concept of a camp such as this entirely, but McBaine and Moss have made an eye-opening documentary. When you have young men delivering rhetoric that looks and sounds like created opinions and ideals, some of which high school kids are barely able to comprehend, you might be creating a genius or a monster. Either way, the experience is important, the connections will last forever, and the path for these young men will be set. I just think they should have a Peoples State. The fact that this thing is an all-men’s camp is another topic as well. It’s Texas. It’s always bigger, but could always be better.


Written by: Leo Brady

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