Jonathan Schroder’s “The Boys in Red Hats” is in itself a crazy example of a movie at war. It is apt as its theme is a face-off between White High School students and a Native American demonstrator at the Lincoln Memorial on January 18, 2019. The incident became a viral flash point on a teenager’s grin on the face of a Native American veteran.
As an alumnus of the students’ school, Covington Catholic in Kentucky, Schroder presents this film as his journey towards understanding. He overhears the pooh-poohing parent’s mentor, agitated former students, a student’s lawyer, and a current student whose identity is concealed. The black activists of the day and Covington’s penchant for enthusiastic rallies are both advanced as explanations for teen behavior.
Between bro-friendly voice-overs and “TMZ Live”-style bull sessions with his producer, Schroder’s exploratory posture feels overly unintuitive. Yet the film also gathers soothingly sharp commentators who highlight the power and race dynamics and aggression at play in the Lincoln Memorial encounter. These include Mohawk journalist Vincent Schilling; Anne Branigin, a writer for The Root; and Alyssa Richardson, a journalism professor who sees a “textbook example of white privilege.”
Schroder’s request to interview a Covington Catholic student, which attracted so much anger, was turned down, and so (personally) with Native American drummer Nathan Phillips. (I don’t even know where to begin with his strangely nostalgic story of being punched in the head by a Covington teacher as a student.)
Points to media bias and a fizzle on our “bubble”. Some viewers of Lincoln Memorial events may instead invoke leading media theorists The Marx Brothers: “Who are you going to believe, me or your own eyes?”
boys in red hats
not evaluated. Running time: 1 hour 27 minutes. In virtual cinemas.