Lee Hirsch's The Bully Project was one of the standout docs of the 2011 Tribeca Film Festival and was immediately secured for distribution by The Weinstein Company. While fans of the film eagerly await its U.S theatrical release on March 30, producer Harvey Weinstein is preparing to appeal the MPAA’s decision to give the documentary an “R” rating.
Filmed over the course of a U.S. school year, the documentary now rebranded as Bully is a verite study interspersed by interviews of the effects, consequences and fears that surround the act of bullying in the classroom.
The doc tells the story of five families who offer profound prisms into a world in which almost 13 million American children are the victims of bullying each year. The film focuses on the stories of 14-year-old Alex from Sioux City, Iowa; 16-year-old Kelby from Tuttle, Oklahoma; 14-year-old Ja’Meya from Yazoo County, Mississippi; and David and Tina Long from Chattsworth, Georgia, whose son Tyler committed suicide after being bullied. It also brings to light the devastating story of Ty Smalley, who took his own life at 11 years of age.
Read details of the stories featured in the film here.
Read my Tribeca festival report on The Bully Project.
The MPAA issued the rating and attributed its decision to the use of "strong language". An R rating will make it impossible for the film to be shown in schools or used as a children’s educational tool. It will also make it impossible for director Hirsch and his team to fulfill key goals of the project designed to instigate "systematic change". As part of their community outreach the filmmaking team hopes to "catalyze audience awareness to action with a series of tools and programs supported by regional and national partners".
Details of the outreach program are available here.
Weinstein, together with Hirsch and protagonist Alex Libby will appeal the rating at a meeting this week.
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