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Bully Review

Directed by: Lee Hirsch
Written by: Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen

This year over 13 million kids will be subjected to bullying in one form or another. The difficulty has elevated in magnitude with the advent of social media, permitting kids to attack one another from behind a keyboard or telephone. Lee Hirsch tackles the hot button issue in his new documentary, Bully. It follows the stories of 5 families who have been directly impacted by bullying. No doubt Hirsch knows the finest way to engage viewers in this kind of issue is to place a face on it.

Hirsch and producer Cynthia Lowen “embedded” themselves at a middle school in Sioux City, Iowa in order to chronicle the life of Alex, who is relentlessly bullied at school. He suffers physical and mental abuse from schoolmates, and is basically ostracized by the whole student physique.  Alex was born prematurely and has some uncommon features that lead to the kids calling him fish face. He has no friends, and has to suffer indignities at house when his sister tells him how creepy every person thinks he is. It is a horribly lonely existence for a teenaged kid to endure, and it breaks your heart.

His parents’ repeated attempts to have the school intervene are met with blank stares and empty promises. The staff (specially Vice Principal Kim Lockwood) is maddeningly incompetent when it comes to the difficulty. There may not be a surefire repair, but they do not even make the pretense of attempting to do something. In truth, Lockwood seems to assume she does a swell job of policing the youngsters currently. The camera tells us otherwise.

If that doesn’t tug on your heartstrings, there are two families that have lost young children to suicide as a result of being bullied. There is also Kelby, a spunky girl from Tuttle, Oklahoma. When she came out as a lesbian, the community turned their backs on her whole family. Her dad is supportive, but has had his personal share of harassment due to his daughter’s sexual orientation. He thinks they really should pack up and leave town but she’ll have none of it. She desires to remain and tries to make a distinction.  Lastly there’s Ja’Meya from Mississippi who is facing up to 45 criminal charges for bringing a gun on board a school bus when she got fed up with every day verbal abuse.

The film connects on an emotional level because of the subject matter, and it deserves to be seen, but it is not without its flaws. Hirsch exposes the dilemma, but provides no answer, and Slate uncovered some details about 1 of the boys (Tyler) who committed suicide that were conveniently glossed more than. He was diagnosed with ADHD, bipolar disorder and Asperger’s, all conditions that might have played a role in his selection to kill himself. Hirsch never delves into how Tyler was bullied it is just taken at face value that it triggered his death. Undoubtedly withholding all the facts tends to make for a much more compelling narrative, but it is a little misleading.

Waiting for Superman was accused of “cherry picking” the students and the handful of charter school successes that were featured this is nearly the same issue. Both films hurl massive issues at the audience, but provide small in terms of solutions, they make you feel utterly helpless and depressed when you leave the theater. Still, each films deserve accolades for bringing their respective topics to the mainstream. Something that starts a dialogue is to be commended.

My other qualm with the film is the camera function. Because Hirsch and Lowen wanted to be as discreet as attainable, they filmed fairly a bit on a digital camera. Naturally there is a lot of shaky-cam going on, specifically throughout Alex’s story arc. I can normally handle that kind of footage, but this time it really produced me feel ill, since it was combined with constant adjustments to focus. The zooming in and out started to put on on me, and I found it distracting. I’m conscious that this is the only way Hirsch could capture some of the footage, but I didn’t care for it.

Those troubles are not enough to thwart a recommendation, though. Bully is a should see for students, administrators, parents and teachers. The film recently won a fight to obtain a PG-13 rating immediately after previously getting rated R by the MPAA (for cursing). It would have been a shame had the film been stuck with the rating. It would efficiently guarantee that the extremely demographic who ought to see this film could not.

Thankfully the film ends with a bit of hope. There is a swelling grass-roots movement called Stand for the Silent that was began by one particular of the families who lost their son. They have managed to reach President Obama with their story. Hopefully a lot more kids and families will join the movement as a outcome of seeing the film. It is a essential component to raising awareness. — Shannon

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