Boys State

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Short of watching a bald eagle burst into flames and drop into the ocean, the closest you can come to emotionally preparing yourself for the November election is streaming Boys State on Apple TV+. Co-directed by Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss, Boys State presents an allegory of American politics in its coverage of the titular event, a week-long boot camp designed by the American Legion to introduce high school boys to the fundamentals of elections and government. To that end, hundreds of teens convene on a campus, split into two parties (the Nationalists and the Federalists), build platforms from scratch, and run for various municipal and state offices. The governor's seat represents the top spot. The program began in the late 1930s "to counter the socialism-inspired Young Pioneer Camps," and now runs annually across the country. If you've ever looked at U.S. Senator Tom Cotton and thought, "Where the fuck did that goon begin his political training?" The answer, in part, is Boys State. Ditto Dick Cheney, Cory Booker, Michael Dukakis, Chris Christie, Garth Brooks, Michael Jordan, and Jon Bon Jovi. The film snagged the Grand Jury Prize for documentary at Sundance earlier this year for good reason. The directors mix fly-on-the-wall storytelling with insightful one-on-one interviews to build complex, compelling profiles of four major characters, all of whom reflect the best and worst aspects of our contemporary political discourse. by Rich Smith

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