Welcome to Girls State

Courtesy of Apple TV+

Four years ago, audiences were introduced to Boys State. The documentary film shares the name with the yearly leadership program where one thousand boys come together in Austin, Texas to build a government from the ground up. The film premiered at Sundance in 2020 and won the U.S. Documentary Competition Grand Jury Prize. Its festival run was cut short due to the COVID-19 Pandemic, but Boys State captured critical attention. The United States was in the middle of an all-consuming election cycle and global pandemic that rocked the nation to its very core.

In 2024, the United States has found itself in a similar situation. We are all still reeling from the effects of COVID and another election year is upon us. Enter: Girls State. Directed by Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine of Boys State, Girls State follows a similar structure. 500 teenage girls from across the state of Missouri come together to create a government of their own entirely from scratch.

The immersive experiment of both Boys State and Girls State is fascinating. The teenagers who take part in building a new government as part of this educational program are not much younger than Alexander Hamilton was when the Declaration of Independence was signed. The participants of Girls State are years or maybe only months away from being registered voters themselves. It’s kind of incredible to see this many teenagers willingly chose to become politically involved at such a young age. Their understanding of the intricacies of American democracy is likely beyond that of adults two or three times their age. Over the course of the week-long intensive educational experience, their understanding will only grow.

We are living in a time when young people are becoming more politically motivated at younger ages and Girls State is simply a reflection of that. There is a group of 21 plaintiffs (now aged 13 to 24) who are actively suing the United States government because they believe their constitutional rights to life, liberty, personal safety, and property have been violated through the government turning a blind eye in creating the climate crisis. Their fight is the basis for another documentary, Youth v Gov. These teens aren’t alone in waging political wars to right the wrongs of the generations prior. Greta Thunberg, the students of Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School, the Sunrise Movement, and other activists are at the forefront of change.

A group of teen girls in Supreme Court robes pose for a selfie
Courtesy of Apple TV+

The trailer for Girls State shows a wide potential for what this documentary could become. Like Boys State, Girls State will go deeper than simply following the construction of a new government. All of these girls are coming into this experience with their own expectations, fears, and hopes. In a way, they get a new start during the span of the week-long intensive. Just because they all are working toward political aspirations doesn’t mean that all of their teenage insecurities will disappear. On a macro level, these are young women with dreams of political careers are still living in a world that has not seen a female President. Girls State seems as though it will give audiences a chance to be introspective and contemplative about the role of our government and the power of the masses to affect change. Democracy is a fragile process that is under immense strain as the nation becomes more polarized by the day. Girls State looks to be a microcosm of our current state of affairs and might be proof that children really are our hope for the future.

Directed by Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine and starring 500 teenage girls from across the state of Missouri, Girls State will be released on Apple TV+ on April 5, 2024.

Written by Tina Kakadelis

News Editor for Film Obsessive. Movie and pop culture writer. Seen a lot of movies, got a lot of opinions. Let's get Carey Mulligan her Oscar.

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