As filmmaker Lee Hirsch sees it, America is at a tipping point. He is talking about bullying. Hirsch, a former victim of bullying himself, started filming Bully in the fall of 2009. He spent the rest of that academic year in a handful of schools across the country, following five students and families trying to understand how bullying is handled within the schools.
The result is a beautifully cinematic, deeply felt, character-driven documentary which the Huffington Post called “the most important film of the year”.
Released to universal acclaim by the Weinstein Company, Bully became a cause celebre and spurred a national grassroots movement of parents, educators, celebrities, politicians and students. In 2013, the film won the prestigious Dupont Award from Columbia University and Stanley Kramer Award from the Producer’s Guild of America.
Since the film’s premiere, Hirsch has presented his film and message at The White House and on Capitol Hill and raised millions of dollars, funding educational programs and free screenings for over 250,000 kids and 10,000 educators.
The multi-award winning director, producer, and social entrepreneur has become one of the most sought after speakers on the issue of violence, bullying and the power of media. At the podium, Hirsch tackles these issues discussing how they affect students, their families, the schools and society at large. He takes audiences through the stages of Bully, starting with his own childhood, delving into the powerful scenes of the film, to actually creating a lasting movement. He discusses his ideas behind Bully, what the process was like filming moments of bullying as they were happening and what he hopes the film will achieve — to show bullying as something that is absolutely undeniable or irrefutable. He engages audiences in “The Bully Project,” a social action campaign to end bullying that started as a result of the film. “The Bully Project” highlights solutions that both address immediate needs and lead to systemic change. Audiences will be moved, disturbed and infuriated as they watch powerful and often gritty clips from the film, but motivated to join Hirsch in his crusade to stop the violence.
This year, over 13 million American kids will be bullied at school, online, on the bus, at home, through their cell phones and on the streets of their towns, making it the most common form of violence young people in this country experience. Hirsch hopes his exposure will decrease those numbers and eventually eliminate them. On February 28th, 2013 CNN debuted a powerful one hour piece, The Bully Effect which focused on Hirsch’s work and the lasting power of the film.
Known for creating change through his documentaries, Hirsch’s debut feature film, Amandla! a Revolution in Four Part Harmony, chronicles the history of the South African anti-apartheid struggle through a celebration of its musical heroes. This film was released to acclaim, winning the Audience and Freedom of Expression Awards at the Sundance Film Festival, as well as one of the five Emmy awards it was nominated for, among many other honors.
He is the founder, director, and producer of the Local Voices project, which produced and broadcasted TV ads featuring Barack Obama supporters in small towns in swing states who spoke candidly about their support of Obama while he was then running for President. The ad won Best Presidential Ad at the 2009 and again at the 2013 Reed Awards, judged by political luminaries such as George Stephanopolous, Joe Trippi and Christine Todd Whitman.
In 2007, Hirsch also directed and produced the History Channel special, Act of Honor. The program paints an intimate portrait of a Mexican-American family dealing with the tragic death of their son, Rafael Peralta, who threw himself on a live grenade and saved the lives of several Marines in his unit during the battle of Fallujah. Act of Honor traces Peralta’s extraordinary journey from Tijuana, Mexico to San Diego to the streets of Iraq. A truly unique immigration and war story, the film has been applauded in reviews by The New York Times, The Los Angeles Times and other major publications.
Hirsch was born and raised on Long Island, New York, and attended Hampshire College. He currently lives in Manhattan, New York.