AFI Movie Club: BOYS STATE – American Film Institute
Boys State Film Still



BOYS STATE is the Opening Night film of the 2020 AFI DOCS film festival. The award-winning documentary, directed by Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine, explores politics through a coming-of-age lens, and the result reveals American democracy and political division at its most hopeful and terrifying moments.


Movie Trivia about BOYS STATE

-DID YOU KNOW BOYS STATE was backed by nonfiction film and TV production company Concordia Films, launched by Academy Award®-winning filmmaker Davis Guggenheim? The film is the first deal since the new banner was announced.

-DID YOU KNOW the documentary was filmed at University of Texas, Austin in June of 2018?

-DID YOU KNOW that the Boys State program, which began in 1935, exists in all 50 states, and counts Dick Cheney, Cory Booker and Bill Clinton among its alumni?

-DID YOU KNOW that while the program exists in all 50 states, Boys State Texas caught the filmmakers’ attention when it made national headlines in 2017 due to its “legislature” voting to secede from the United States?

-DID YOU KNOW that the casting process – in which the filmmakers determined which participants to follow – took 20 production days, almost three times as long as principal photography?

-DID YOU KNOW that the documentary was shot in just seven days—the length of the program—with Moss and McBaine supervising as many as seven crews, moving among the four main characters and two political “parties” at numerous meetings, rallies and musical performances?

-DID YOU KNOW that directors Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine have previously collaborated with BOYS STATE editor Jeff Gilbert on their Sundance Special Jury Prize-winning film THE OVERNIGHTERS? The editing down of roughly 300 hours of footage for BOYS STATE took over a year to complete.

-DID YOU KNOW that director Jesse Moss says that the lesson of the film is that “democracy is not something we can take for granted, that it’s not a spectator sport”?

-DID YOU KNOW that the film premiered at the 2020 Sundance Film Festival to acclaim and was reportedly sold to Apple and A24 for $12 million— a new record for a Sundance documentary?

-DID YOU KNOW that although SXSW was cancelled for 2020, BOYS STATE – originally selected for the festival – received the Louis Black “Lone Star” Award Special Jury Recognition for Documentary?


The movie doesn’t end at the credits: Family-friendly Discussion Questions

Join the conversation on Twitter and Instagram now using #AFIMovieClub. Or post your responses in the comment section below.

-Were you surprised by the level of political discourse in BOYS STATE?

-How did the participants diverge in terms of backgrounds and politics?

-Which participant in BOYS STATE did you relate to the most and why?

-Were you surprised by how the political conversation evolved during the program?

-How does the Boys State program serve as a microcosm for U.S. politics? Does it bode well for the future of civic discourse? Why or why not?

-What did you think of the setting of Austin, Texas? How do you think the film would have been different if they filmmakers had followed the program in a different region of the country, such as New England or the midwest?

-How does the documentary embody the cinema verité style of filmmaking?

-Why do you think the filmmakers chose Boys State to follow, rather than Girls State? Director Amanda McBaine mentions a potential sequel following Girls Nation, in which girls run for president against other girls. Hypothetically, how do you think that documentary might differ from BOYS STATE?

-How would you rate BOYS STATE?

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