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|Index||75 reviews in total|
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
We saw this at the LA Film festival (we are big festival goers) and really enjoyed it. In fact, I was surprised there weren't a lot of reviewers here. There was a packed crowd where I saw it. It's sad that we really don't address the problem of bullying until the new millennium but folks should see this or at least show it in schools. We hear from parents whose kid committed suicide as a result of bullying and other kids who were bullied and how little is done about this problem. In this day and age when everyone gets a trophy and everyone is seemingly pampered, how can kids still have this happen to them? A well done film with a some brave kids.
The most powerful documentaries are those that speak for themselves.
They let their subjects do the talking and lead the film. This is, by
far, Bully's greatest strength. This powerful doc. tells the story of
several different families who encounter bullying in different ways. We
follow a few families dealing with suicides as a result of bullying,
one family whose son is dealing with bullying on an everyday basis, and
one family whose daughter is in youth behavioral detention from having
brought a gun onto a bus. Each story is a different, powerful facet of
bullying and the journey is moving and heart breaking. At the center,
however, is the main argument that not enough is being done by the
adults to prevent bullying.
As stated, the film is told by it's subjects. We witness the bullying that occurs first hand, follow the subjects in their everyday lives, and see first hand the divide between the kids who are bullied and the adults who either do nothing or are unaware of the problem. Other parents deal with the loss of their child through suicide stemmed from bullying and their efforts to change the school systems and law enforcement that ignore the problem. Like any good film, and documentary for that matter, we have our heroic underdogs and our villains. In this case, our heroes are the bullied and our villains are those behind the broken system that allows bullying to continue. One woman in particular displays aptly the real problem and does so with finesse. I will say, by the end of the movie, you'll want to punch her in the face for being such a....well, I can't use that word in this review.
The tragedies in this film are supplemented by a handful of moments that really grab at you. From hearing a man who lost his son use politics as an example to a confrontation in the aforementioned woman's office, the film has a good arc about it. We root for change to happen and for these kids lives to improve, for there to be hope, and there is. Even though the tragedies are rough and even a bit tough to watch at times, we are rewarded with the hope of better days and an improvement. As someone who was a victim of bullying and has known many others to also be victims of bullying, it's refreshing to see that people are standing up all over the world and attempting to do something about it. To say that this film is important is just touching on what it means for this doc to be made.
That isn't to say the film is perfect. Far from it, there's a lot that could have been done. First, the film isn't especially well rounded. We don't get the opposite point of view. Having some of the bullies interviewed would have been a bit interesting I think. It would have also been nice to see some bullies and bullied as adults and what they think. The film also doesn't really look at anything beyond the immediate situation. We don't get any statistical data about bullies or a big variation on the kinds of bullying that occurs. We are simply presented with a few not so unique victims. Perhaps it was simply the filmmakers intention to show us a broken system and those trying to change it, but I would have preferred more variety, however, in the presentation of this problem.
Beyond this, the film is truly great. I can't stress the importance enough of this documentary. With all that goes on in this country these days, it's easy to overlook how important this matter is and how vital it is for the adults involved to put an end to bullying. Especially powerful are the numerous stories of child suicides which reinforce the importance of the issue. I'd even go so far as to say this documentary should be mandated watching for schools. If you have children, find a way for them to see this film. It is one of the most important films of our time.
Written by Markus Robinson, Edited by Nicole I. Ashland
Ever since the Weinstein Company has been petitioning the MPAA to assign "Bully" a "PG-13" rating instead of the dreaded "R", there has been controversy surrounding its distribution. There have since been reports that the Weinstein Company plans to release this documentary as "Unrated" to get around the MPAA stranglehold, which may doom it to the dreaded "limited release" realm of no return and rarely seen. So what is the deal? Why was (until quite recently) "Bully" pulling an "R" rating? Does "Bully" advocate bullying? No. Does it use language that your twelve year son/daughter/sister/brother doesn't hear at school every day of his/her life? And (the one that terrifies the MPAA the most) is there any nudity? NOOOOOO. The biggest controversy of this film, and the main idiotic reason that this film pulled an "R" rating for the longest time, is the fact that audiences will actually see middle school and high school kids visibly getting shoved around, punched, and called awful names. And while the images here will be disturbing to parents and teens alike, they need to be seen by a demographic that is actually living through the controversial themes the movie brings up. The awful truth is that 13 million children are bullied every day. So, for the MPAA to have slapped it with an "R" rating is simply irresponsible. "Bully" is a cut and dry example of subject matter superseding the MPAA's fundamentally rigid beliefs of counting the number of F-bombs in a movie.
Now, here is my review of "Bully":
Like a real time therapy session for anybody who has ever been bullied in school, "The Bully Project" or "Bully" as it has been retitled, may not only be responsible for stirring up more pre-release controversy than any documentary in recent history, but also be one of the timeliest documentaries ever released. What director Lee Hirsch tries to do here, is give audiences and inside look at bullying in today's public schools by actually documenting a few victimized teens (ranging in ages from 12 to 16) as they are in the midst of day to day social bullying. The film begins with the story of a boy named Tyler, who killed himself as a direct result of being constantly ridiculed and physically abused from his peers at school. Hirsch films Tyler's parents as they discuss the dire epidemic that is school bullying today, and then we get to see bullying through the eyes of a child in a heartbreaking reality, as Hirsh introduces audiences to Alex, age 12. Alex is an undersized boy who is subjected to constant ridicule and scorn from his peers. And I'm not just talking about older kids at school calling him names. Hirsch follows Alex as he is seen getting his lunch stolen, physically hit in the back of the head, shoved to the ground and in one case stabbed with a pencil on the bus (as the bus driver does nothing). The tragic mental and physical abuse this child goes through will reduce many audience members to tears instantaneously. For others, the emotional damage this young man goes through on screen will be nothing less than anger inducing. If you had forgotten how bad it was being a teenager when you went to school, Alex will serve as a not so subtle reminder of how brutal some kids have it. And what's worse is Hirsch's depiction of how out of touch the adults are with their children, in conjunction with how seemingly unflinching school administrators act when confronted about bullying in their own schools.
Final Thought: Unfortunately at times the subject matter of "Bully" is better than the film itself, even though Hirsch does daring work. What I mean by that is, that for how hard hitting his subject matter was, the filmmaking (or how the film was put together) could have been better if it would have included every aspect of bullying. In many ways this film only scratches the surface. In saying that, the film does more than serve its purpose. This isn't just a movie about the struggles of fitting in. This is an uncensored look into a bullying epidemic that up until a few years ago had been mostly swept under the rug of American society. So, even though it is doubtful that "Bully" will be the most well made documentary I see all year, it will most definitely be the most important; and one not only every child should see, but entire families should see together.
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If you are a caretaker of children in anyway I recommend this movie to you. I hope this director may consider doing a movie on corporal punishment in public schools in America. You come away from this movie thinking change could be simple but it is anything but. It takes a lot of support (Money) to create a noticeable change. Many of you may come away thinking, "how could that person be so ignorant". Beware, this movie is painful to watch. I wanted to jump out of my seat many times during this movie wanting to stop the insanity. You may want to write your congress as a place to start. I hope that you see it and I hope that you are educated by it.
Bully is a film that needed to be made. I believe at one point in time
we were bullied, some of us were bullies, and most of us were been a
bystander to bullying. For years, we've seen fictional characters be
bullied in many Hollywood productions, that provided audiences with
simple, relatable, and moderately effective entertainment. The
characters were familiar, the plots were conventional, but we laughed,
liked the characters, and wanted them to succeed more often than not.
Never have we seen bullying in its rawest form, and capturing that on
film is one of the hardest, most emotion-testing things one could do
with the art form.
In the documentary, we follow around five people from all across the U.S. who have encountered bullying in some way or shape in their school. In Oklahoma, we meet openly gay Kelby Johnson, a down to earth youth who has been outcast for her sexual orientation. She has a tight bond with her friends, including her girlfriend, but personal feelings of inferiority and the looming thought that she'll never be like everyone else has lead her to try to take her life three times. It is a bit sad her story couldn't have been elaborated more. The subject of gay bullying could've been a documentary on its own.
In Mississippi, teenager Ja'Meya Jackson pulled a loaded gun on a bus full of students, enraged and hurt at the fact that she had been bullied for months and not a single person had taken action. She didn't kill anyone, but her life has changed greatly since the event. In Iowa, we meet Alex Libby, a socially awkward loner, victim to verbal and physical abuse on his school bus for a face resembling a fish. He is a quiet soul, bottling up his rage and hatred for people and coldly tells the camera "sometimes I want to become the bully." The other two children's stories are told through their parents, because they committed suicide for continuing arrogance to the problem. Kirk and Laura Smalley, parents of their late son Ty who took his life at the tender age of eleven, have started an organization called "Stand for the Silent" in hopes that people will speak out for those who aren't. The fifth boy is the deceased Tyler Long, who killed himself at seventeen because of ongoing torment for his weak appearance and uninvolved athletic status.
As a documentary, Bully is a surface-scratcher, going for an expansive view on the issue, rather than a deep, moving one. It manages to pull in a number of different souls who have been victim to harsh, uncalled for treatment, but never seems to explore them to the level of depth that we'd like. We also, never get a look at the other side of the road, from a bully's perspective. Why does one bully? Why does one take pride in hurting other people? And does their homelife really have anything to do with it, or do they just enjoy the pain and torment his victim feels? Bully paints the issue as one with no feasible solution other than to police the grounds carefully and intricately.
Bully has also been garnering a plethora of controversy surrounding the MPAA's decision to stamp the film with an R-rating. Director Lee Hirsch stated by doing that, the film would then be out of reach to children who the movie is directly made for. This is another move by the MPAA, made by completely tuning out the impact a film like this could have, in exchange for sticking to old, worn, outdated policies from an organization far too biased in their decision-making. The film was released for two weeks with an "Unrated" rating, rejecting the MPAA's suggested rating, before the edited cut, the one now in theaters, was released moderately theatrical with a few of f-words subtracted to try and garner more revenue and viewership.
With that being said, the documentary is definitely worthy of recognition and is almost required viewing for not only young children, but parents as well. It gives hope to the unlikely outcasts, which I have always enjoyed seeing, and it provides people with the feeling that things are being done. For one, we are seeing a documentary on the issue and organizations are being created to stop it. Things are getting done, but will the problem be eliminated, is my question. Last year, I watched an ABC Family movie called Cyberbully, about a teen girl who was being harassed and attacked viciously on the web. Throughout the showing, commercials aired stating "stomp the bullying" and "delete the drama," but who really was paying attention? Are bullies going to look at a Television film and thing "what I'm doing is wrong, I should stop?" Most likely no. They will embrace it with a cold shoulder, ignoring its messages and its morals.
I'm optimistic about the response for Bully, but as far as eliminating the degrading act, that would have to mean taking away peoples' feelings of inferiority and superiority to one another. That just can't be done. It's the painful side of the world and human nature. Bully is the first documentary I have had the pleasure of seeing in theaters, and despite noticeable restrictions, it is a brave film with a lot of heart, humanity, and soul. A bold and daring exercise that could change the way documentaries are produced. The MPAA should've debated that before seeking out the rubric for their tired policies.
Starring: Alex Libby, Je'Maya Jackson, Kelby Johnson, Kirk Smalley, Laura Smalley, and Kim Lockwood. Directed by: Lee Hirsch.
The issue of bullying has started to get seriously discussed in the past few years, mainly due to suicides, often due to anti-gay bullying. "Bully" looks at bullying in general. Much of it consists of interviews with the bullied students and their parents. One of the important points that the documentary makes is that there is that the reaction to bullying is often "boys will be boys". "Bully" makes the point that these things will continue until we as a society say that it's not acceptable for anyone to let this to happen to people, especially in settings where children expect to be safe. Are we ready to say "Enough is enough" and prevent bullying before it starts?
If this was aimed at appealing to young people who bully others, it
won't. It's long, drawn-out and is basically preaching to the choir
throughout most of the movie. So much of the "emotion" seems staged and
forced, almost to the point of whoring out the people involved.
Basically, this disjointed documentary follows the lives of a handful of families effected by bullying, all in backwoods towns. Never once do they show any factual statistics, nor do they have any experts giving opinions. It's very dry, and feels as dull as the dusty bible-belt towns they're filming in.
If they really wanted to stop the bullying, then they'd:
1. Make the film interesting. It really is not for 90% of the film, unless you find emotional hemorrhaging entertaining.
2. Show hidden camera footage of what these kids really have to go through to burn it in the minds of the viewers. As it stands, you get little clips of kids being mean, but as someone who was bullied as a child quite often, I can tell you that what was shown is a watered down version that pales in comparison to what most kids go through.
3. Give out statistics to show how the problem is significant and effects a large number of people. (it does)
4. Get inside the psyche of not only the bullied, but the bullies themselves. To fix bullies, you first have to find the causes and how to motivate them to stop.
5. Have experts give testimony as to how to solve the problems, and give advice on what works and doesn't work.
As it stands, this film is emotional masturbation for the families victimized by bullying, and that doesn't serve any real purpose other than their own catharsis. If you show this to kids, they'll either roll their eyes or fall asleep. This film, if it was honestly aimed at starting some sort of movement, was a joke.
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
The documentary "Bully" opens with footage of David Long of Murray
County, Georgia watching home video footage of his son, Tyler.
Initially, David claims, Tyler was a bright and vibrant little boy. But
as he grew older, something in him changed. He became more and more
withdrawn from other kids his age, preferring to be alone. Gradually,
David and his wife, Tina, became aware that he was being picked on in
school. In all likelihood, they didn't know the full extent of their
son's physical and emotional torment until after he committed suicide
in October of 2009. He was only seventeen years old. "If there is a
heaven," says David, bravely keeping his emotions in check, "I know
that Tyler's there. What keeps me going is the blind faith that I'll
see him again. That, and my wife and my other kids." The Longs take
action, organizing a town-hall meeting to address the ways in which the
school system failed to protect their son.
Later in the film, we meet Perkins, Oklahoma residents Kirk and Laura Smalley as they attend the funeral of their eleven-year-old son, Ty, who also committed suicide after years of bullying. In their bedroom, Laura is slumped on the floor, sobbing uncontrollably. Kirk sits on the bed, distraught but able to speak. "We're just a bunch of nobodies," he says. "If this had happened to some politician's kid, a law would be passed in a minute." Ty's best friend eventually admits that he was himself a bully back in the second grade; by the third grade, he realized what he was doing was wrong, and how that he's eleven, he's passionately anti bullying. So too are Ty's parents. At the start of the academic year, Kirk, new to the internet, launches Stand for the Silent, an organization that will be dedicated to preventing school bullying and youth suicides.
Director Lee Hirsch, having himself been a victim of bullying, also interviews a number of kids and families during the course of the 2009/2010 academic school year. There's fourteen-year-old Ja'Meya from Yazoo County, Mississippi, who's nearing the end of her sentence in juvenile hall for brandishing a loaded shotgun at her tormentors in a crowded school bus. She and her mother anxiously await the outcome of her case. Quiet and unassuming, she knows she made a gigantic mistake and will carry a criminal record the rest of her life. There's sixteen-year-old Kelby from Tuttle, Oklahoma; ever since coming out as a lesbian, she and her family have been ostracized from the community. Initially, she refuses to leave her school or her town, as she believes she can make a difference. As the film progresses, it becomes clearer that such a thing is easier said than done. At the very least, she has the support of her father and her friends, the latter especially.
The main focus of the film is twelve-year-old Alex from Sioux City, Iowa. Hirsch and his camera crew follow him throughout his seventh-grade year, capturing a constant stream of slurs, physical assaults, and threats from several bullies. He gets the worst of it on the school bus, where it seems the drivers couldn't care less about any of the kids, let alone Alex. He gets along well with his family, although when it comes to school, he has stopped all communication with his parents. They're understandably frustrated. This goes double for his mother, who gave birth to Alex after only twenty-six weeks of pregnancy and was told he wasn't expected to survive. When the threats against Alex go one step too far, Hirsch decides it's time to intervene; he shows the footage he shot to his parents, the police, and the school administrators.
His mother's reaction is interesting. On the one hand, she's infuriated with the school's principal and vice principal, who give her the usual remarks about how it will be taken care of when it's obvious that they don't care one bit. On the other hand, she suddenly understands what Alex is feeling and why. It now makes sense to her that he comes him downplaying the seriousness of his situation and showing no emotion. She believes he's modeling his father, although he asserts that Alex has never seen him cry simply because he isn't around when it happens. The only time Alex displays a genuine emotional reaction is when he admits to the camera, through a quivering lip, that it has gotten to the point the he wishes he were the bully.
It's now well known that "Bully" was the subject of controversy regarding its rating. Initially stamped with an R for some language, Katy Butler of Ann Arbor, Michigan created a petition to have the rating changed to PG-13, as she wanted to ensure its exposure to school-age kids. The MPAA refused to yield, and so the film was released by The Weinstein Company without a rating. Although I applaud their act of defiance, a film without a rating is given even less distribution than a film with an R rating. This is a travesty; this movie should be required viewing of all adolescents, teenagers, parents, bus drivers, and school administrators. If there isn't a theater in your area showing it, e-mail Weinstein and request a DVD or internet screener. The day I saw it, I noticed in the audience a woman with three boys, who each looked between ten and twelve years old. I don't know if they got anything out of the film, but I was tempted to approach the woman afterwards and congratulate her for her efforts.
Update: Since its original release date of March 30, 2012, the MPAA has given "Bully" a final rating of PG-13. Director Lee Hirsch announced this on his Facebook page, calling it "a great victory for us all." Indeed, it truly is. Now you have no excuses.
-- Chris Pandolfi (www.atatheaternearyou.net)
*** This review may contain spoilers ***
BULLY (2012) **** A must-see documentary by Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen focusing on the epidemic of bullying in the schools of America which in and of itself can be presumed a pandemic as well in the sense of where anger, hatred and simple narrow-mindedness can manifest from and eventually spread. Five separate mid-Western families are depicted two attempting to salvage their remaining family in the aftermath of their beloved's suicides confirmed from the relentless attacks they endured to the point of no return showcase how a blind eye to incredibly frustrating situations (i.e. the closed environs of the school bus as a haven of beatings and humiliations thrust on their prey) are attempted to be dealt with or in the majority simply overlooked and ignored altogether. The one subject, Alex, a shy, sweet and smart adolescent is shown on the first day of school literally trembling (and brilliantly conveyed on the soundtrack of his hindered breathing in knowing what hell will ultimately be unleashed upon him), will have you rooting for him to get through the year and angrily screaming at the screen at the imbecilic school head and her myopic viewpoints that you want to step into the screen and throttle her! At times incredibly sad and tragic, the film is in essence a triumph in how the families stay together to battle this onset of violence and refusing to back down for the sake of their children and more importantly other children who have no voice of their own! Thankfully the MPAA JUST re-rated the film as PG-13 (for a few 'F' bombs!) and is a necessity for all parents AND children to see together and begin a dialogue for something that can be avoided/stopped. I urge you all to see this.
I left the theater thinking that although "Bully" tackles a very
serious problem among young people in our society, it didn't tackle it
as completely as it could and should have. The film did a good job of
identifying the problem of schoolyard bullying and bring it to national
attention, but at no point did it offer any suggestions about how the
problem might be solved, and at no point did it show examples of the
many school districts that are actively working to solve the problem.
In that sense, "Bully" is a prime example of what's wrong with our
society in general - it's very good at identifying problems, pointing
fingers and assigning blame, but it's not at all good at proposing
There is also a not so subtle political message - the film implies that bullying only occurs in Republican "Red" states such as Georgia, Oklahoma, Iowa and Mississippi. No examples of bullying are shown in San Francisco, New York or New England, although bullying undoubtedly occurs in those areas as well (as the Phoebe Prince incident in Massachusetts proves).
In short, to use a cliché, the film "asks more questions than it answers" and is therefore not likely to bring about any real change.
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