Powerful documentary “Bully” highlights glaring miscommunication between parents, educators and students
Thirteen million students are bullied every year. Three million students skip school each month because they do not feel safe. These are the kind of staggering and unacceptable numbers that the newly released “Bully” documentary brings to light.
“Bully” weaves together five stories from different parts of the country. Two are about the grieving families of boys who’ve committed suicide — a 17-year-old in Georgia and an 11-year-old in Oklahoma City. The others are profiles of kids who experience bullying daily— a Mississippi teenager arrested after pulling a gun on her tormentors and a gay Oklahoma high-schooler isolated by her community. While each story is poignant, the most memorable is Alex, a 12-year-old seventh grader at East Middle School in Sioux City, Iowa, who endures the most physical abuse of any of the film’s subjects.
“They punch me in the jaw, strangle me, knock books out of my hands, take things from me, sit on me,” Alex said in the film. “They push me so far that I want to become the bully.”
The documentary, directed by Lee Hirsch, garnered national attention not only because of its relevancy but also because the film has no rating. The Weinstein Company released the film without a rating, which gives theaters the power to rate the film themselves. The Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) suggested an “R” rating based on foul language.
The foul language the MPAA refers to is nearly unnoticeable in the film, to this viewer’s ears. More noticeable is the silence between the kids and their parents. Most parents didn’t even realize the extent of their kid’s bullying until shown footage by the film’s producers. So while an “R” rating from the MPAA means those under 17 years old can’t see their own lives played out on the screen without an adult, it also means that kids will need a parent in order to see “Bully,” which will hopefully be the catalyst both parties need to communicate about the issue.
UPDATE: On April 9, 2012, the Weinstein Company released an edited version of “Bully.” After removing three curse words, the documentary has earned a PG-13 rating.
More distressing than actions from the kids is the inaction of the adults. The public-school administrators draw verbal outcries from the audience throughout the film as they refuse to implement any disciplinary measures. Most of the time, it’s because they don’t know what to do.
“I don’t have a solution,” East Middle School Assistant Principal Kim Lockwood said in the film. “I’m not magic.”
Without solutions, the problem won’t disappear. While missing actionable steps to resolve bullying, “Bully” is not without hope. At the end of the film, we see parents and students come together at an anti-bullying rally sponsored by Stand for the Silent, a program created through the efforts of Kirk and Laura Smalley, whose son committed suicide after being bullied. The rally addresses the issues of school bullying and youth suicide with an engaging, emotional methodology and is one of the ways to get involved.
“Bully” does not claim to be final fix for the bullying issue. Rather, the film is the first step in recognizing the problem. The Bully Project’s web site is the next step – offering tool kits for educators, students and parents to continue the film’s fight. You can also check out their social app, which is a great way for fans to get involved and show their support. You can change your profile photos on FB/Twitter, change their Twitter skin, donate tweets, etc.
Check out the following links to get involved:
- For partner organizations: http://action.thebullyproject.com/toolkit
- For celebrity supporters: http://action.thebullyproject.com/celebrity
- For general supporters: http://action.thebullyproject.com/supporter
- For change.org members: http://action.thebullyproject.com/change
“Bully” is currently showing in five theaters in New York and Los Angeles. The Weinstein Company plans to expand that number to up to 150 theaters in the next few weeks.
Have you seen “Bully?” If so, share your thoughts about the film’s message in the comment box below!
Reporting by Kelly Burke / genConnect.com
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