2020 Sundance Docs in Focus: BOYS STATE

BOYS STATE | Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Thorsten Thielow

BOYS STATE
Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine offer an eye-opening look at divisive modern-day American politics through the long-running titular high school leadership program.

Festival Section:
US Documentary Competition

Sundance Program Description:

Strap up your saddle and get ready for a wild ride. BOYS STATE is a political coming-of-age story, examining the health of American democracy through an unusual experiment: a thousand 17-year-old boys from across the state of Texas gather together to build a representative government from the ground up. High-minded ideals collide with low-down dirty tricks as four boys of diverse backgrounds and political views navigate the challenges of organizing political parties, shaping consensus, and campaigning for the highest office at Texas Boys State – governor.

Documenting impeachment threats, dramatic debates, underdog victories, and even nefarious internet memes, filmmakers Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine (THE OVERNIGHTERS, 2014 Sundance Film Festival) chart the dramatic twists and turns of these intersecting stories to reveal profound truths about our political choices and civic obligations and to remind us, ultimately, that democracy is not a spectator sport. With cunning insight that will have audiences buzzing, BOYS STATE holds a mirror up to our divided country. This is a film for the ages in every sense of the term.

Some Background:

Directors/Producers:

  • Jesse Moss
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE OVERNIGHTERS
    WILLIAM KUNSTLER: DISTURBING THE UNIVERSE (2009, producer)
    ON THE ROPES (1999, associate producer)

    The San Francisco-based Moss is an Emmy-nominated filmmaker who produces through Mile End Films with his wife, Amanda McBaine. His previous Sundance feature, THE OVERNIGHTERS, was recognized with a Special Jury Prize for Intuitive Filmmaking.

  • Amanda McBaine
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE OVERNIGHTERS (producer)

    McBaine has been a regular producing collaborator with her husband, Jesse Moss, through Mile End Films. This marks her feature directorial debut.

Executive Producers:

  • Laurene Powell Jobs
    Past Sundance docs:

    THE PRICE OF FREE (fka KAILASH) (2018)
    BISBEE ’17 (2018)
    BENDING THE ARC (2017)

    Powell Jobs is also an executive producer of fellow 2020 Sundance US Documentary Competition titles TIME and A THOUSAND CUTS. She is the president and founder of the Emerson Collective, which supports social entrepreneurs who work to remove barriers to opportunities through social justice initiatives, including education and immigration reform, and is a co-owner of Concordia Studio.

  • Davis Guggenheim
    Recent past Sundance docs:

    WHERE’S MY ROY COHN? (2019)
    BISBEE ’17
    THE PRICE OF FREE
    AN INCONVENIENT SEQUEL: TRUTH TO POWER (2017)

    The Oscar-winning Guggenheim is also an executive producer of fellow 2020 Sundance US Documentary Competition titles BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS; TIME; and A THOUSAND CUTS as chief creative officer of Concordia Studio.

  • Jonathan Silberberg
    Past Sundance docs:

    WHERE’S MY ROY COHN?
    BISBEE ’17
    THE PRICE OF FREE

    Silberberg is also an executive producer of BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS and A THOUSAND CUTS and co-executive producer of TIME as president of Concordia Studio. The Emmy-nominated producer was previously a longtime producer at RadicalMedia.

  • Nicole Stott
    Recent past Sundance docs:

    WHERE’S MY ROY COHN?
    BISBEE ’17
    WESTWOOD: PUNK, ICON, ACTIVIST (2018)
    DRUNK STONED BRILLIANT DEAD (2015)
    CHUCK NORRIS VS COMMUNISM (2015)
    LISTEN TO ME MARLON (2015)

    Stott also serves as an executive producer of BLOODY NOSE, EMPTY POCKETS; A THOUSAND CUTS; and TIME as EVP Nonfiction Films & Series for Concordia Studio. She was previously the longtime head of documentary at Passion Pictures.

Co-Executive Producer:

  • Shannon Dill
    Past Sundance docs:

    WHERE’S MY ROY COHN?
    THE PRICE OF FREE

    Dill is an Oscar winner as a producer of FREE SOLO. She also serves as co-executive producer of TIME as head of production for Concordia Studio.

Editor:

Why You Should Watch:
Locating compelling subjects – some who demonstrate an almost Machiavellian knack for political maneuvering – Moss and McBaine present democracy in a microcosm. Leading the viewer through the gauntlet of the Boys State political process, these young men follow in the footsteps of past attendees like Dick Cheney, Bill Clinton, and Rush Limbaugh, and just might be tomorrow’s political leaders.

More Info:
Twitter

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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