In this episode, we compare two political, but not didactic, documentaries, Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine’s new film Boy’s State and Jean-François Caissy’s 2018 film First Stripes. Both are about male-driven military or military-esque environments where groupthink emerges, and how these environments become a crucible for exploring broader societal issues, including misogyny and male privilege.
This episode features Editor-in-Chief Alex Heeney, Executive Editor Orla Smith, Associate Editor Brett Pardy.
Boys State (2020)
Jesse Moss and Amanda McBaine’s documentary takes us to the American Legion’s annual program where a thousand Texas high school seniors (mysteriously still divided by gender) gather to form a mock government. Over the course of a week as they go through a fast-paced mock state election, complete with platforms, speeches, and fierce competition. It’s also pretty terrifying to see the degree to which this is a popularity contest and the boys are preoccupied with policing women’s bodies and ensuring everyone has access to guns.
First Stripes (Jean-François Caissy, 2018)
Jean-François Caissy’s verité documentary follows a group of Québécois recruits to the Canadian armed forces through the 12-week basic training boot camp. We went deep on the film in our recent ebook on Canadian cinema, The 2019 Canadian Cinema Yearbook, with an essay on the film and interviews with the director and editor. In this male-dominated environment, conformity is encouraged, and straying from the norm is punished.
Read Brett’s review
Show notes for Boys State and First Stripes
- Read Alex’s interview with First Stripes director Jean-François Caissy exclusively in The 2019 Canadian Cinema Yearbook. The 2019 Canadian Cinema Yearbook is the inaugural biannual ebook spotlighting the best in Canadian Cinema through interviews with the filmmakers and Seventh Row commentary to contextualize the films. This book is the go to resource for discovering great Canadian Cinema that may have otherwise passed under-the-radar, including the filmmakers that are sure to be big names in the future. Filmmakers take you behind the scenes into how they conceive of and make their films, from a technical perspective, and we make sure it’s an accessible read with no background knowledge about filmmaking.
- The 2019 Canadian Cinema Yearbook also includes Justine Smith’s interview with First Stripes editor Matthieu Bouchard-Malo
Where to watch the films
- First Stripes is available to stream on the National Film Board of Canada website in Canada. It is also available on Prime in the UK and US.
- Boys State is now streaming on Apple TV+ worldwide
Roads to Nowhere: Kelly Reichardt’s Broken American dreams
- Purchase your copy of our newest ebook to discover how modern master Kelly Reichardt operates, and to read a series of essays about each of Reichardt’s films, which examine her thoughtful, quiet portraits of everyday lives.
- Read a free chapter from Roads To Nowhere, featuring an interview with Lily Gladstone
- Purchase your Kelly Reichardt mug