Thursday, May 23rd, 2013


This very sincere and highly emotive documentary that covers the horrendous topic of bullying of school children by their peers has been generating a great deal of media attention because it had initially been rated an ‘R’ movie thus preventing it been shown to the under 17’s who are most affected by the problem.  The filmmakers took out a few swear words to ease censor’s conscience who gave it a PG-13 rating, but now that I have seen it (and been terribly moved) I’m not sure if its actually compelling in such a manner that would it sufficiently have the correct profound effect on a teenager.
Filmmaker Lee Hirsh follows the stories of several children all from regular working class families across rural US.  Two of the children have already committed suicide, one at the mere age of 11 years old, and the other at 17.  All their stories are undeniably tragic and quite heart wrenching in the telling.   The presence of the camera following some of the children as they go about their daily routines may have altered the balance slightly as the perpetrates of the bulling seemed less prone to be caught on camera, but nevertheless that still didn’t defuse the reality that it was happening.
What is so painfully clear is that parents and school staff alike are so unaware of the details of their children’s lives, and the discovery of the problems seems to come as such a shock to them.  The parents valiantly try to help and resolve the situation by dealing with the matter head on, but on every occasion, without a single exception they are met with either total denial by the school staff or their inability to deal with the issue, or much much worse, to simply keep re-assuring the worried parents ‘we will deal with it’ and ‘it will get better’ and then doing nothing.
The weakness of the film is that is doesn’t even start to address any notion of any solution to bullying at all.  It touches on issues such as racism and homophobia but does not even hint on how these children and their families and schools should start to address dealing with diversity and prejudice.  It seems somehow a wasted opportunity.  Three years ago I reviewed ‘Out In The Silence’ about a young gay teenager who had to be home-schooled as he was in fear of his life, but his single-mom fought back and with help sued the District School Board who were then forced to mandate a policy to deal with Hate Crimes in their schools. And it made a difference not just by saving one young man’s life, but in subsequent visits to the school, they had actually started a Gay Straight Alliance group.
‘Bully’ does however send a powerful visual message at the end of the movie when the two sets of very brave parents who lost their children were so empowered to start a Campaign to help kids to speak out against bullying in the memories of all the kids for whom its too late.  Let’s hope they do.
Have a large box of kleenex close by you.  And then after you’ve watched it you may like to check out http://www.thebullyproject.com/  the social action campaign that this movie inspired.

Posted by queerguru  at  10:16

Genres:  documentary

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