March 29, 2012 at 2:32 pm , by Anna Schonauer
Have you heard about Bully? The documentary, which opens in select cities this week, follows kids and their families as they experience the devastation of being, well, bullied. After Bully received an R rating by the MPAA, the filmmakers are now releasing the movie without a rating, so individual theater owners can rate the documentary themselves. “The small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the R rating is there because it’s real,” says Bully director Lee Hirsch. “It’s what children who are victims of bullying face on most days.”
We talked to Hirsch about the film—and why for some parents and kids, it might be the most important movie they see this year.
LHJ: Why make a documentary about bullying?
Lee: I was bullied myself as a kid. I felt like I could give a voice to that experience, not just for the 12-year-old me but also for all the people who are going through it today.
LHJ: What shocked you most while filming this movie?
Lee: The physical bullying didn’t surprise me because I remember going through that myself all too well. But I was surprised by just how many people are struggling with this issue. When you’re being bullied you think you’re alone and you don’t have a voice. This film is helping band people together who’ve had this experience—whether they had it themselves, or its something their kid sister is going through. There’s not one family that bullying doesn’t touch.
LHJ: Why aren’t teachers and school administrators doing more to solve this problem?
Lee: I screened the movie for a group of administrators and one of them said to me afterwards, “To be honest, not one of us hasn’t gotten it wrong at some time.” But for me, the point is not to create division or fault. Instead, it’s to create an important conversation for educators to have about the value of social and emotional learning, about teaching empathy. I’d love to see school climates considered to be just as important as test scores and athletic victories.
LHJ: What advice do you have for parents whose kids are being bullied?
Lee: I encourage your readers to visit our website where we have resources for victims of bullying. Parents should know that it’s your right to make sure your kid is not being bullied. If the teachers are not being responsive, you have to go to the principle, the superintendent, the school board, the office of civil rights, the local media. Just keep fighting. Some parents feel like they can’t win and they pull their kids out of school. But the most important thing is to let your kid know you’re fighting for them.
To learn more about Bully and what to do if your child is being bullied, go to www.thebullyproject.com.