past event

Eisner/Lauder New Views Documentaries and Dialogue Series: Boys State

The Aspen Institute Arts Program presented a pre-release virtual screening and post film panel discussion on the acclaimed documentary BOYS STATE. Filmmakers Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss and the film’s featured Boys State participants Ben Feinstein, Steven Garza and René Otero joined the panel moderated by Aspen Institute Executive Vice President Elliot Gerson.  This one of kind event was presented in partnership with Aspen Film in conjunction with A24 and Apple Original Films and supported by The Aspen Institute Eisner/Lauder New Views Documentaries and Dialogue Series.

BOYS STATE can now be viewed on Apple TV+ and click below to view the conversation to learn more about the making of the film and the featured protagonists.



BOYS STATE takes you on a wildly entertaining and continually revealing immersion into a week-long annual program in which a thousand Texas high school seniors gather for an elaborate mock exercise: building their own state government. Filmmakers Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine closely track the escalating tensions that arise within a particularly riveting gubernatorial race, training their cameras on unforgettable teenagers like Ben, a Reagan-loving arch-conservative who brims with confidence despite personal setbacks, and Steven, a progressive-minded child of Mexican immigrants who stands by his convictions amidst the sea of red. In the process, they have created a complex portrait of contemporary American masculinity, as well as a microcosm of our often dispiriting national political divisions that nevertheless manages to plant seeds of hope.

With all the rousing emotions of an underdog sports drama, at first glance, Boys State is the story of a no-holds-barred, mock teen election. But it is also a rare crowd-pleasing tale that holds a revelatory mirror up to a moment we’re so wrapped up in right now it’s hard to see it clearly—one of the most politically divided and disillusioned, yet fired-up, moments since America’s founding.

The film is rife with election fever; but there isn’t a seasoned politician in it. Instead, it embeds itself into the vibrant and volatile relationships between a group of alternately knowing and naïve, testosterone-fueled and still-maturing Texas teenagers embroiled in a venerable, summertime political competition known as Boys State.

Sponsored by the American Legion since 1935, Boys State (and the gender-separated Girls State) is a national civics education program designed to immerse high school juniors into the nuts and bolts of public governance. It is also a take-no-prisoners battle for victory. At the core of the week-long event is the pitting of two fictional parties—Federalists and Nationalists—against one another in a contentious campaign for Governor and other key positions for which there can only be one victor.

From within this electric atmosphere—packed with equal parts teen spirit, adolescent angst and the hilariously, maddeningly hyper-opinionated manners of our times—filmmakers Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss focus in on the stirring journeys of four talented boys destined to clash.

BOYS STATE, an Apple Original Films and A24 release, debuted on Apple TV+ on Friday, August 14.

New Views is generously sponsored by Jane and Michael Eisner and Leonard Lauder.

Event information
Sun Jul 26, 2020
8:00pm - 10:00pm EDT