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Girls State - Sundance 2024


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By: Isaac P. Ale
January 20, 2024

Girls State Girls State [2024]

Film

Four years after the acclaimed documentary Boys State, directors Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss are back with another entry in a similar space. Girls State follows 500 girls that all participate in the Missouri Girls State event. Similar to the Boys State event, all of the participants work together to create a government from the ground up. Each girl has the opportunity to run for Governor, House Representative, Attorney General, etc. or they can apply to be a part of the Supreme Court. Taking place over the span of a week the documentary distills seven days of events and interactions into one 95 minute film.

It's clear that McBaine and Moss took what worked so well in Boys State and applied it directly to Girls State, because once again, it works. The sharp editing from Amy Foote provides a wonderful look at all the various activities going on at the college campus where the event takes place. But there's not too much jumping around where it gets hard to follow, they strike a nice balance of motion and stagnation.

Not to mention the character introductions are perfectly placed. Introducing a multitude of characters in a documentary can be exhausting in the first minutes of the film. Jumping from one person to the next to establish all of the players for the rest of the film, it can be jarring to say the least. But with the editing and some delightful name plating, it really is a joy to see a new player come to the stage. They're spaced out enough where you can cement one name in your mind before the next comes in. Which of course is perfect when you're trying to keep track of how each person impacts a group of 500!

I know these girls aren't actors so I can't really comment on their performances but in the scope of the film they are all quite fun to watch. There are some incredibly funny moments, mixed in with heartwarming, heartbreaking, or even concerning times. A great point of this follow up to Boys State is that there's such a glaring difference between the programs available to boys and girls that participate. Both Missouri Boys and Girls State shared a campus over the same week during the film and the disparity in rules, offerings, and overall concept was compelling to see.

The timing of the film also couldn't be more powerful, as it was filmed when the Supreme Court filing leaked that Roe v. Wade was going to be overturned. So not only do we have 500 girls, incredibly interested in politics, building a government. But the discussions they have on how they want to govern, make laws, and establish a platform are inspired by real time events that.

Froth

For this film we're rolling with the Salt Lake City located Proper Brewing Co's Riled Up Red. I'm going with this for the sheer purpose of irony. A focal point in Girls State is for these girls to be talking about real issues in their lives. Things like gun control, climate change, Roe v. Wade all directly apply to the lives of these young women. Yet for some reason, they're not entirely allowed to discuss them. Often women are cast aside for commenting on strong political beliefs, or general beliefs, because they get "too emotional" or "too riled up." These young women are no strangers to these circumstances and are pushing the envelope on what is culturally "accepted" dialogue for a woman. You're goddamn right if one of these women is going to be animated and demonstrative when expressing their beliefs regarding these issues as is their right, as is the right of everyone. But the young men in Boys State don't receive some of the same criticisms. So here we have the Riled Up Red, a sweet and malty beverage to remind us that we all get riled up for all sorts of reasons, emotion and logic can coincide with one another.

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