Follow the Leader is a coming of age story about three teenage boys, each with the dream of becoming President of United States. Director Jonathan Goodman Levitt followed these focused young men, born as Reagan left office and the Berlin Wall fell, for three years, from high school though Election Night 2008. These upper-middle class, conservative kids, each living in traditional “all-American” towns, are enthralled by politics. They grew up shaped by 9/11 which forever altered their post-Reagan childhood beliefs that America was invincible.
We first meet the three protagonists while they attend Boys’ State, a week’s training where many future leaders (from President Bill Clinton to Astronaut Neil Armstrong to Broadcaster Tom Brokaw) have gone since 1935 to hear current leaders’ advice. (Note that it’s Boys State, no girls allowed!)
For Ben Trump, living in Fairfax, Virginia, whose great uncle worked for Ronald Reagan, being a conservative Republican is second nature for him. A gifted member of his school’s speech team whose parents recently divorced, Ben spends his summer between high school and college interning for Ken Cuccinelli, Virginia’s most conservative state senator, going door to door and creating the negative ads that bring in the needed votes. In college, he throws himself into conservative causes and bemoans the difficulty of being conservative in college. With his good looks and charming manner, Ben seems headed for a place in GOP politics.
Since he was a toddler, D. J. Beauregard wanted to be President. Focused and dedicated, a political operative even in high school–he managed a political campaign in his hometown on the Massachusetts/New Hampshire border where Raytheon is the major employer–DJ begins to question his political views and future after high school graduation and a stint working in local political campaigns.
Nick Troiano creates a youth coalition in his town, only to be attacked by rivals–his website is defaced on the night of its launch. While unwavering in his conservative beliefs, he realizes the benefit of bipartisan unity and throws himself into Unity08, an Independent third party in the 2008 election, as well as developing a political Internet broadcast program while attending American University.
These three young men–speakers at their high school graduation, engaged in the politics, conservative yet questioning–all vote for the first time in the 2008 election, which they recognize as a pivotal change in American politics. They also recognize–as do we, the audience–that white men still dominate American politics. Ben, DJ and Nick offer us insight into a generation that will shape and possibly become our nation’s leaders over the coming decades, as director Levitt lets the camera roll and boys speak for themselves.
The iTunes pre-order link for Follow the Leader is: http://bit.ly/11RfZxW.