Taking nothing away from the futuristic phenomena that is The Hunger Games, which opened to breaking records last weekend, there’s another movie that one can hope will garner more than a sliver of the attention as well as the huge box office – the documentary feature, Bully. The film opens in Los Angeles and New York this Friday and then spreads to other cities on April 13.
Directed by Lee Hirsch, the film follows a handful of teenagers and their families as they find their lives affected by bullying. Male or female, gay or straight, the film doesn’t differentiate the kinds of bullying but only that it’s happening every day to kids everywhere.
While much of the film follows Sioux City, Iowa teen Alex whose instances of being bullied are captured on camera, the cameras also document Tuttle, Oklahoma student Kelby, a 16-year-old out lesbian who tells stories of being bullied (by classmates as well as teachers) and how her own family had been labeled pariahs by the small town. However, even though her parents offer to move elsewhere, the strong-willed girl is not about to leave the small town or her adoring girlfriend.
Another student, Ja’Meya Jackson, 14 years old and living in Yazoo County, Mississippi, had been bullied for so long that she finally brandished a loaded handgun on a school bus to scare off her bullies. The film shows the teen living in a juvenile detention facility with multiple felony counts against her and hoping she can soon be released and go back home.
While much of the controversy lately has been about the film’s “R” rating by the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the Weinstein Company announced on Monday that since the rating has not been changed after a petition garnered close to 500,000 signatures (including those from celebs like Ellen DeGeneres, Meryl Streep, Demi Lovato and Kelly Ripa), the film would be released as unrated.
AfterEllen.com spoke with Hirsch earlier this week about the outpouring of support for his film as well as making sure people are aware of the resources available to help yourself or other fend off bullies.
AfterEllen.com: What do you think it is that has people so behind this movie before many of them have even seen it?
AE: Up to this point, what has been the biggest surprise for you? I mean, did you expect any of this to blow up the way that it has?
AE: How much of a challenge was it to not intervene when you were filming?
AE: With someone like Kelby, we see her talking about the experiences she’s endured but we didn’t get to see beyond that. Was that because you didn’t have access to the school?
Kelby in Bully
AE: When you were finding the kids to talk to or to follow, was there thought of making sure you had some kids that were being bullied because they were gay? Or was that something that just came up as you found people.
AE: With all the different instances that you saw and different people you talked to — and this may be a naïve question — why are some kids bullied and some kids are not? Is there even an answer to that?
AE: You’ve stayed in touch with the families and the kids but what did you hear from them after they saw the film?
AE: What can people do at this point to help put a stop to bullying?
Alex, being bullied on the bus in Bully