Tuesday, September 8, 2020

Boys State

Jesse Mosse and Amanda McBaine’s Boys State at first seems like a piece of garish Americana. Robert Altman’s, Nashville meets the American Legion, which plays a big role as the sponsor of an annual rite of passage.The erstwhile members of an American institution with a famed conservative bias, dressed in their famed regalia, interview candidates--a lesson in American political process. The proceedings in this iteration (there are other Boys and ALA Girls States around the country) take place in Austin, in the shadow of the capital dome; they culminate in an election in which the top dog wins the mock gubernatorial race. There’s even a talent show in which the oddity of Leonard Cohen’s “Hallelujah” being performed in a paramilitary setting cannot go unnoticed. The participants which the film captures are mostly good ole boys who have the 4H club clean scrubbed look in their Texas Boys State tee-shirts. Many mimic classically conservative anti-abortion, anti-immigration and pro Second Amendment stances. However there are anomalies which make the movie less of a send up than an exploration of how values  are inculcated. You realize that appearances can be deceiving from the very beginning when a group of boys are being lectured on George Orwell’s l984 and Aldous Huxley’s Brave New World. Then there’s the fact that the leadership position of the Nationalists, which is one of the two parties in contention (the Federalists are the other) are held respectively by a Mexican-American (Steven Garza) and a Afro- American (Rene Otero). Despite the lily-white demographic, there are other exceptions as the camera pans the audience. In addition, the film is characterized by an anomalous interiority. Rather than creating caricatures, the producers chose a far more complex approach in which thoughtful discourse and one-on-one interviews show how the participants wrestle with the issues on their party platforms. In addition, these teenaged politicians demonstrate an almost uncanny erudition. Politicians on both sides of the political spectrum could learn something from these ambitious and aspirational personalities. The film introduces a number of contrarieties that are mind boggling, not the least of which is the Legion's role in orchestrating a level of exchange that many incumbant politicians, on both sides of the aisle, would be hard put to emulate.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Note: Only a member of this blog may post a comment.