This new character-driven documentary from the lauded Lee Hirsch was shot over a school year, two years hence, hits on a collective and personal nerve from the fact that "kids will be kids." Part of its controversy has been from its rating by the MPAA; but further editing would impact a direct candor that transcends economic boundaries, as well as ethnic, racial and sexual ones.
Bully shows how five families have been touched by the antagonism where some lasting effect on some 13 million youngsters will occur this year. Reactions and responses from educators, youth and parents calls for a change in a prevailing notion culture has agreed with the behavior and how it has been handled.
If Hirsch's fly-on-the-wall approach isn't slick or artistic enough, the result is a plea that is assured and trenchant as a case-study strategy reveals heart wrenching vignettes of victimization that has nearly that power of a Waiting For Superman when it comes to social psychology.
A freshman at his middle school in Sioux City, Iowa, Alex (a 12 year old) thinks that his razzing schoolmates are just "messing with him" and wants like anyone else his age to be accepted. Though his parents are concerned about the harsh bias and threats he gets even before getting settled on the school bus.
Down in Mississippi (Yazoo County), a tormented, soft-spoken Ja'Meya (14 years old) took things into her hands by swiping a loaded gun from her mother's closet for peace of mind. But, on felony charges for her actions, she has landed in a juvenile facility as her day in court is about to come to fruition.
From Tuttle, Oklahoma, 16-year-old exceptional athlete Kelby has been ostracized and drawn ire from classmates and teachers for her coming-out causing her to drop out from the sports she loves. Though her parents felt it was in her best interest to relocate, the steely teen has the support of her girlfriend and friends to fight back in her hometown.
The other two underlined scenarios of this pernicious persistence resonate in part because of their tragic natures - Georgia's 17-year-old Tyler Long hung himself after enduring endless peer persecution with administrators' unmindfulness. His parents, Tina and David, has roiled and rallied the Murray County community in opposition to a school apparently unwilling to be accountable for its accepted values, or what is the norm. Also, Laura and Kirk Smiley are standing up on behalf of their son 11-year-old Ty who committed suicide after unable to bear anymore coercement. "Stand for the Silent" is the organization Kirk set up to raise awareness of the repugnant impugning (felt by Ty and so many others) through vigils.
Here's cinema verity that should be seen by kids of the ages depicted above and their parents or guardians that is more valuable than an educational tool. Yet, it may be a bit tedious at times, but Hirsch's effective earnestness into overwhelming harsh tendencies (that probably goes beyond countries and continents) is a startling, intimate account that will have many children and adults looking at themselves in a different light.