As the National Show approaches, I’m spending quite a bit of time reading about documentaries and watching them for ideas and inspiration. Starting now, I’ll try to review at least 2 documentaries a week on this blog to broaden your horizons and introduce you to some films you may not otherwise hear of! All of them are available in theaters or on Netflix. Hope you enjoy!
Bully (2012): Directed by Lee Hirsch
If you’re in tune with the film world, I’m sure you’ve heard chatter about this doc in the last few months. Bully is controversial because it goes behind the scenes in America’s schools and reveals that which administrators and parents choose to ignore: an ever-growing bullying problem that has resulted in a rash of child suicides in the last few years. The bullying problem has sparked, among many initiatives, both “It Gets Better” (a campaign aimed at gay youth) and The Bully Project, which is associated with this documentary. In addition to the controversial subject, Bully ran into a number of roadblocks including its R rating by MPAA for foul language. Of course, an R rating would mean that the film would be prohibited from the very target audience it sought: youth under 17. A few “f” words were removed, and a PG-13 rating was achieved, but many theaters across the nation are still planning on showing the unrated version. In fact, AMC theaters are allowing kids under 17 to see this film without parent approval because they believe the message is so important.
On to the film! While I expected to be shocked and invigorated by Bully, I certainly was not. Yes, it was a very poignant and effective portrayal of bullying in America, but the whole time I was waiting for it to reach some sort of more powerful statement, or at the very least, suggested solutions for the epidemic. Never once was there a solution offered to the bullying crisis other than “talk about it,” which is great, but so far that doesn’t seem to be stopping the problem or putting an end to the fear and suicides. It had many tear-jerking moments but on the whole I felt like the treatment was rather superficial. I understand the sensitive nature of working with kids, but it never reached a point where I actually sympathized with most of the kids- I just felt sympathy for them. I was expecting it to pack a punch like Dear Zachary or any of Michael Moore’s films. It did not.
That being said, it was a very valiant and effective attempt to portray such a disastrous subject. I definitely recommend that everyone see it and help spread the message about stopping the bullying epidemic. I know Julian and I left the theater deep in conversation about it. It was a very good film- I was just expecting much more.
Here’s the trailer: