So many factors go into choosing the right movie at Sundance. The 2024 edition of the Utah Independent Film Festival is playing host to 81 documentaries and narrative features. Some films have the star power and names to immediately pique your interest. Some have plot descriptions that are impossible to ignore. Some completely fly under the radar until word of mouth takes over the streets of Park City and you have to pray you can find a ticket to the next screening.
But some movies you know you have to see the moment you see the name. The one for me this year was Girl’s State, the “sibling” documentary to 2020’s Boy’s State.
This inspiring documentary follows several high school girls as they attend a week-long education program where they build a state government from the ground up. 2020 Boy’s State followed several young men as they attended a similar program in Texas. Girl’s State follows the program in Missouri.
As we are introduced to each of the chosen female subjects we realize Missouri is an incredible backdrop for the second go-round of following these young people caught in a mock government bubble. The film moves from an entertaining spotlight on a bunch of intelligent, driven young women and becomes a fascinating time capsule of modern day American politics and people’s ability to coincide in today’s political climate.
Unfortunately the documentary captures something that doesn’t exist much in the United States of America anymore. An open forum for ideas and beliefs and a large group of accepting and willing ears to participate in conversations. When the documentary began I expected a lot of shouting and arguing and people drawing lines in the sand. Instead it is just a huge collection of people who see things differently but are all so willing to hear each other out. It’s impossible to watch this documentary and not leave with a sense of hope.
As a new father of a recently-born daughter this was the most emotional I became in any of the Sundance films I saw. The documentary so expertly captures the struggle of being a woman in today’s world with nearly every frame.
As the Missouri Girl’s State is occurring on campus, the Boy’s State version is across campus and happening concurrently. It becomes very clear very quick the inequalities and differences between the two. From dress codes to buddy systems to the attendance of the Missouri Governor at the Boy’s swearing in but absence at the Girl’s.
The most heart-breaking part of the documentary is when one of the girls is able to make a major judicial decision that alters the history of Girl’s State but she said it makes her sad because she knows how far she is from being able to be in that position to make that decision in the real world.
As a father of a girl who maybe one day can make her way to a Girl’s State this film left me inspired. The strength, adversity, and determination each of these young women show is so incredibly moving. Watching the 90 minutes of this documentary leaves you with so much hope for the future.
I’m excited for the day when I get to show this documentary to my daughter.