Bullies targeted in powerful documentary

August 6th, 2012

Bullies targeted in powerful documentary

By Vicky Roach
August 06, 2012 6:02PM

Bully trailer

The Bully Project is the first feature documentary film to show how we’ve all been affected by bullying, whether we’ve been victims, perpet…

CONTROVERSIAL documentary Bully has been given an M rating, ensuring it can be viewed by its target audience in Australia.

In the US, the film – which depicts teens facing horrific bullying – was initially given an R-rating for strong language.

But a small, 25-print national art house release means it might not reach the audience it deserves.

More than 120,000 American school children have seen Lee Hirsch‘s heartbreaking film for free through partnerships and a curriculum initiative (a popular campaign and a toning down of profanity eventually led to an ammended PG-13 rating) .

In Australia, distributor Roadshow has entered into a special agreement with exhibitors whereby schools can request screenings at nominated suburban multiplexes. But so far, there has been a slow uptake on the part of educators.

Four school group bookings have been received in Griffith and the South Australian communities of Noarlunga and Mt Barker and Eastend Cinemas have also embraced the opportunity. But as of yesterday, no other schools in Australia had taken advantage of the offer.

Bully tells the stories of a number of abuse victims – including two who were so traumatised that they took their own lives and one who turned a gun on her tormentors.

Mid-way through filming, life got so bad for another one of Hirsch’s young subjects, he felt compelled to directly intervene.

Fearing for the boy’s safety, the filmmaker showed raw footage of the daily abuse the marginalised high school student endured on the school bus to his shocked parents and educators, who were completely unaware of the extent of the problem.

In Sydney yesterday, Hirsch said that having only been in the country for 12 hours, he couldn’t comment specifically on the Australian experience.

“But I know we get lots of messages – through our Facebook page, Twitter – from people in Australia who feel it’s a huge issue and who are looking for support. I think the experience is probably fairly parallel.”

A victim of bullying himself, Hirsch says Bully is deeply personal.

“I internalised it a lot. I thought, well, one day I’ll show them – that was kind of my MO. And I think I kind of have with this film.”

Since Bully doesn’t shine a particularly flattering light on educators, Hirsch applauds their courage in standing by what is revealed in the film.

“Sometimes I think about people who work in trauma or ER rooms and how their empathy buttons get worn down over time. I think that’s a bit of what happens. They stop seeing it. Stop wanting to see it.”

Bully, which screens at the Melbourne Film Festival later this week, opens in Australia on August 23.


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