'The Boys in Red Hats' Highlights a Northern Kentucky High School's Infamous Blowup in Washington, D.C.

Footage of a teenage boy smiling mysteriously at a Native American man was both lauded and lambasted in 2019.

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click to enlarge Promotional image for The Boys in Red Hats - Image: provided
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Promotional image for The Boys in Red Hats

An infamous incident involving a Greater Cincinnati high school will see its transition from social media notoriety to the silver screen when the new investigative documentary The Boys In Red Hats premieres on July 16. 

The film covers the events and aftermath of Jan. 18, 2019, when Covington Catholic High School in Park Hills, Kentucky, made national headlines when a video of an altercation involving one of its students and a Native American activist was uploaded to social media. 

The original video, which lasted only a minute, showed Nicholas Sandmann, a student at Covington Catholic at the time, wearing a red baseball cap emblazoned with the words “Make America Great Again” -- former President Donald Trump's slogan -- with several classmates in the background. Sandmann, then 16, was smiling and standing right in front of Nathan Phillips, a Native American activist of the Omaha Nation who was playing a drum while chanting and singing. 

As later footage revealed, the CCHS students were attending a March For Life event while Phillips had participated in a simultaneous Indigenous Peoples March. As both of the demonstrations ended, a group of Black Hebrew Israelites began heckling the high school students who then responded with their own chants. Phillips, seeking to diffuse any conflict, approached the students, ending up in front of Sandmann, who did not back away. As Sandmann revealed later in a statement, he believed that he was diffusing the tense situation by holding still. 

What followed the incident was a veritable storm of social media reactions and quickly evolving coverage from most mainstream media outlets. A New York Times article published the following day called it an "explosive convergence of race, religion and ideological beliefs.”

As longer videos from the altercation were released and more bystanders were interviewed, publications like the Washington Post, CNN and NBC all revised their coverage. Sandmann later filed lawsuits against all three; according to the Cincinnati Enquirer, the lawsuits against the Washington Post and CNN have been settled. The Covington Diocese originally condemned the students actions but after launching an investigation, later stated that the students were not at fault. 

Covington Catholic High School is known as the only all-boys high school in Northern Kentucky. With 512 students enrolled as of the 2020-21 academic year, over 95 percent identify as Catholic, according to the school’s admissions website. 

A Covington Catholic alumnus himself, award-winning filmmaker Jonathan Schroder has now created an “investigative documentary” that will “piss off both sides,” or so says the film says in its tagline. 

“I wanted to find out the truth of the situation and better understand how and why this story snowballed through the media the way it did,” Schroder said in a press release. 

According to the film’s official synopsis, the documentary “explores the media’s obsession with immediacy over accuracy, the danger in prioritizing intent over impact and what it’s going to take if we ever hope to bridge the deep divides in our communities—and our country.”

For Schroder, the filming of the project hit close to home. 

“It was certainly a challenge for me to stay objective because of my own personal experiences at Covington Catholic,” Schroder said in the press release. “I knew it would be going into making the film. We all knew we would need to work outside of our comfort zones and bring in all perspectives; letting the facts speak for themselves.”

The Boys in Red Hats, which is 87 minutes long and unrated, according to its official materials, will premiere in Cincinnati at the Esquire Theater located at 320 Ludlow Avenue in Clifton. Nationwide, it can be found screening in-person in New York City and Los Angeles and through virtual cinemas all over the country. Find ticketing and showtime information for the Esquire, or learn more about The Boys in Red Hats.

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Hello! THE BOYS IN RED HATS, a feature documentary by filmmaker Jonathan Schroder (NatGeoTV's The Incredible Dr. Pol), arrives in cinemas (in-person and virtual) beginning July 16! A full list of opening markets, including New York, Los Angeles, Cincinnati and more, is below. Watch the trailer


After a 2019 confrontation between a student from Kentucky's elite Covington Catholic High School and a Native American elder on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial goes viral, filmmaker Jonathan Schroder sets out to understand the incident, the media’s obsession with it and the larger ramifications for both one small Kentucky community and our country as a whole.


THE BOYS IN RED HATS deftly explores the media’s insistence on immediacy over accuracy, the danger in prioritizing intent over impact and what it’s going to take if we ever hope to bridge the deep divides in our communities—and our country.

In Theaters/Virtual Cinema July 16


Cincinnati, OH // Esquire Theatre

New York, NY // New Plaza Screening Series

Los Angeles, CA // Laemmle Virtual Cinema & Laemmle Theatres*

*in-person screenings Aug. 2-5 with filmmaker Q&As!

Newbergh, NY // Downing Film Center (Virtual)

Columbus, OH // Gateway Film Center (Virtual)

Lambertville, PA // Acme Theatre (Virtual)

Peoria, IL // Landmark Cinemas (Virtual)

Long Beach, WA // Neptune Theater (Virtual)

Athens, GA // CineAthens (Virtual)


...and more to come!


**Screening Links available for reviews/features/interviews**


About the Film

January 18, 2019: it was the smirk heard round the world. 


Surrounded by cheering classmates on the steps of the Lincoln Memorial in Washington, D.C., 17-year-old Nick Sandmann, a student at northern Kentucky’s private, affluent Covington Catholic High School, instantly and unwittingly became a global headline, internationally villainized on social media and in the 24-hour news cycle as he appeared to confront Nathan Phillips, a Native American elder attempting to keep the peace at that year’s heated March for Life rally by beating a ceremonial drum as he moved through the crowds. Overnight, video clips of the interaction went viral, Sandmann and his classmates hit with a tidal wave of worldwide outrage, their safety threatened and the entire Cov Cath community suddenly at the center of uncomfortable conversations about racism, privilege and politics.


A graduate of that elite institution, filmmaker Jonathan Schroder watched the incedent—and the subsequent media blowback—with keen interest, knowing firsthand the deeply formative nature of an adolescence spent inside the entitled Covington Catholic bubble. Seeking to better understand the scene on the steps, the people involved in it and its larger ramifications for the community, the media and our democracy as a whole, Schroder set out to investigate how one fleeting interaction can become a global controversy. Along the way, The Boys in the Red Hats deftly explores the media’s obsession with immediacy over accuracy, the danger in prioritizing intent over impact and what it’s going to take if we ever hope to bridge the deep divides in our communities—and our country.


Directed by Jonathan Schroder

Written by Jonathan Schroder and Justin Jones

Executive Produced by Jonathan Schroder

Produced by Justin Jones

Music by Justin Kerkau

Director of Photography Jason Neff

Film Editing by John Dilly

-initial reports were later revised to more accurately represent the events that occurred as longer videos were uploaded to social media and the participants were interviewed. 

-As the march ended, the students were met by a group of Black Hebrew Israelites, Phillips, a Native American activist then reached the scene and assuming that there was a brewing conflict approached the students meaning to diffuse the situation by beating his drum and singing

-what’s happening

-what happened 

-about the documentary


Links Used








https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/January_2019_Lincoln_Memorial_confrontation (No information was obtained from the article itself, I simply followed links where necessary)




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