What's On - Movies
Tue, 14 August 2012Over 13 million American kids - gay and straight - will be bullied this year, making it the most common form of violence experienced by young people in the US. The documentary film Bully, in cinemas in South Africa from 17 August, brings a human scale to this startling statistic.
Directed by Sundance and Emmy-award winning filmmaker Lee Hirsch, Bully is a cinematic, character-driven documentary. At its heart are those with huge stakes in this issue whose stories each represent a different facet of America’s bullying crisis.
Filmed over the course of the 2009/2010 school year, Bully opens a window onto the pained and often endangered lives of bullied kids, revealing a problem that transcends geographic, racial, ethnic and economic borders.
It documents the responses of teachers and administrators to aggressive behaviours that defy “kids will be kids” clichés, and it captures a growing movement among parents and youths to change how bullying is handled in schools, in communities and in society as a whole.
The film generated controversy in the US when the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gave the film an "R" rating, meaning that children under 17 required an accompanying adult to see the film. The distributors argued that much of its intended audience would not be able to see it.
The distributors then chose to release Bully without a rating, giving cinema owners the choice of what restrictions to place on it. Eventually a cut down version was released with a PG13 rating.
It offers an intimate, moving and unflinching look at how bullying has touched five kids and their families. These are their stories:
Kelby, 16: Since 16-year-old Kelby came out as a lesbian, she and her family have been treated as pariahs in their small town of Tuttle, Oklahoma. The onetime all-star athlete, Kelby has faced an outpouring of hatred from classmates as well as teachers, and has been forced to leave her sports teams by attacks. Refusing her parents’ offers to leave Tuttle, the gutsy teenager is bolstered by her adoring girlfriend and a few staunch friends, resolving to stay in her town and change a few minds.
Alex, 12: For 12-year-old Alex of Sioux City, Iowa, the slurs, curses and threats begin before he even boards the school bus. A sweet-natured kid just starting middle school and wanting more than anything to fit in, Alex assures his worried parents that the kids who taunt and hit him are only “messing with him.” But bullying has trailed Alex thorough life like a shadow, and as his seventh grade year unfolds, the bullying only escalates.
Ja’Meya, 14: In Yazoo County, Mississippi, 14-year-old Ja’Meya was picked on every morning and afternoon of the hour-long bus ride between home and school. On the morning of September 1st, the quiet, unassuming girl had had enough and brandished a loaded handgun she’d taken from her mother’s closet to scare off her tormentors. Incarcerated in a juvenile detention facility and charged with multiple felony counts, Ja’Meya fearfully awaits the outcome of her case, supported by her loving mother.
David and Tina Long: In October 2009, 17-year-old Tyler Long of Murray County, Georgia, hanged himself after years of abuse at the hands of his classmates and indifference from school officials. As his parents, David and Tina Long, mourn the loss of the son they tried to protect, and demand accountability from the school that failed him so miserably, his death has sparked a war in a community forced to face its bullying demons.
Kirk and Laura Smalley: Following the bullying-related suicide of their 11 year-old son, Kirk and Laura Smalley are determined to prevent other children from suffering Ty’s fate. As schools around the country prepare for the start of a new academic year, Kirk launches an anti-bullying organisation, Stand for the Silent, coordinating a series of vigils that underscore the high stakes of America’s bullying crisis.
Bully is in selected cinemas in South Africa from Friday 17 August. Details and bookings at SterKinekor.com. Watch the trailer below.