Watch the ‘Girls State’ Co-Director Talk About Her Hope Subjects Would Discuss Roe Being Overturned: ‘If They Didn’t, They’d Have Exploded’

Husband-and-wife documentarians Amanda McBaine and Jesse Moss are fascinated by teenagers. On an anthropological level, but also in an emotional sense. Being the parents of two teenage daughters, it makes sense that they’d want to train their lens on other kids of their age to figure out what makes them tick. What’s more intriguing — and perhaps more daring in this tense world climate — is that they’d want to do so within the confines of such a staunchly political environment. Focusing on a leadership and citizenship program run by the American Legion in multiple states, “Boys State,” their first film in what has now become a series, was set in Texas and saw what McBaine described to IndieWire’s Editor-in-Chief Dana Harris-Bridson as a testosterone-fueled “running of the bulls.”

Speaking after an IndieWire & Apple TV+ screening of her and Moss’ recent installment, “Girls State,” at Vidiots Foundation in L.A.’s Eagle Rock neighborhood, McBaine admitted that she and Moss were worried about repeating themselves. But the world granted them a new, unfortunate angle.

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“The fear was, ‘Uh-oh, are we gonna make the same movie?’ We’re still a polarized country. It’s still a really interesting space, these programs where they bring together kids who have different politics, and that’s always gonna be interesting to me,” McBaine said. “So I thought, well, one about the girls is gonna be extra extra interesting. And of course, with everything that was going on in the Supreme Court, it started to feel like that was gonna be the main topic they were gonna discuss. What we didn’t know was that the Dobbs case [which overturned Roe v. Wade] was gonna leak a week before. I don’t think that had ever happened before, a leak.”

Whereas “Boys State” is more centered around politicking and gamesmanship, “Girls State,” which also switches locations to Missouri, takes on a more cooperative tone. One of the central actions of the program is centered on building a mock Supreme Court that hears, debates, and deliberates on a timely case.

“I was hoping, fingers crossed, fingers crossed, fingers crossed that they were going to hear an abortion case,” admitted McBaine. “And that happened thankfully. I think if they didn’t, all of our kids would have exploded because that’s what they wanted to talk about. Again, they’re really smart, it’s a really charged time for these girls, in Missouri in particular where abortion is now not legal.”

“Girls State,” unlike “Boys State,” also puts an emphasis on the separation between genders that these programs enforce and how often the female programs don’t have the same resources their male counterparts are granted. This separation spoke to larger issues around the gender gap and really drew McBaine in as a spectator.

“I was there because I wanted to see them build the Supreme Court,” McBaine told IndieWire and the crowd at Vidiots. “I wanted to have these girls have a conversation about that issue amongst themselves. If only for a moment. That was really what I was most interested in. I also continue to be interested in whether or not civil discourse is possible. So for those two reasons, I wanted to be there, but it did get interesting to have the boys there. And it’s good for the program too because actually this year they’re more and more merged and they’re sharing a lot of their resources and that doesn’t happen in those states. Texas doesn’t, it’s not concurrent. And so there’s value to having it at the same time.”

Check out photos from the IndieWire & Apple TV+ screening of “Girls State” and watch the entire conversation with McBaine and Moss below.




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