Film Review: Bully

This weekend, I went to see Bully, the newly released documentary produced and directed by Lee Hirsch. I’ve been anxiously waiting for this film to open, as it focuses on a topic very important to me.  Bully sheds light on bullying in today’s schools, the difficulty parents face in protecting their own children, and the often dismissive attitude many school administrators take toward the issue. It focuses on five specific situations throughout the 2009/2010 school year, following not only the kids but also their parents as they battle with school administrators, counselors, and police just to try and ensure their children’s safety at school.

I saw Bully with my boyfriend Dan, an art teacher in a New Jersey middle school. I knew I would have a strong emotional response to the film. Put simply, it’s not for the faint of heart. It forces the viewer to confront the reality of what is actually going on in schools today. The cruelty of children, the ignorance of their teachers, and the parents’ inability to communicate or to affect real change are all placed in plain sight. Dan, who basically came along because I asked him to, was surprisingly moved by the film, and by one child’s story in particular. He was so troubled by the storyline of a 12-year-old boy named Alex that when we arrived home he started researching ways to help create change.

The film’s website, www.thebullyproject.com, offers viewing guides as well as guides for parents, teachers, students, and advocates. At 2AM, Dan was reading all of them. I have never seen him react so strongly to something he saw on TV or in a movie. This week, he is planning to reach out to the administration in his district and arrange a showing of the film for all the teachers in his district. He already works a lot of anti-bullying exercises into his curriculum, but he is going to work with the website’s guides to add more.

A partner website, www.facinghistory.org, offers many resources for teachers and students looking to stand up for human rights. Dan is planning to integrate some projects from there into his lesson plans as well.

The unrated version of Bully is currently showing in a few theaters in New York City and Los Angeles due to some graphic language and content, but if you can, I recommend getting out to see it. It provides an incredibly eye-opening view to a growing issue in schools. I applaud the filmmakers for bringing the issue to the forefront and for no longer allowing so many school administrators to continue to turn a blind eye as their students are being brutally tormented. An edited, rated PG-13 version was released this past weekend, and is showing in a few more cities.

-Lindsay

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