Filmmaker ‘disappointed, distressed’ over ‘R’ rating applied to bullying documentary

Filmmaker ‘disappointed, distressed’ over ‘R’ rating applied to bullying documentary

LOS ANGELES — The Weinstein Company has lost an appeal of the “R” rating given to upcoming documentary “BULLY” by the Motion Picture Association of America — the film, an urgent and intimate look at America’s bullying crisis by award-winning filmmaker Lee Hirsch is scheduled for nationwide release this Spring.

This alarming and powerful documentary provides an unflinching look at how bullying has touched five kids and their families, but the “R” rating would restrict anyone under the age of 17 from watching the film without an adult.

“To say that I am disappointed and distressed would be a grave understatement,” said Hirsch.

“It is my great hope that Bully reaches the audience for whom it was made: kids, the bullied and the bullies and the 80 percent of kids who can make the most impact by becoming upstanders rather than bystanders.”

Although more than half of the appeals board felt that the movie should be rated PG-13, the MPAA rules stipulate that a two-thirds vote is necessary to overturn. The final tally was one vote short of the number needed to reverse the decision.

Filmed over the course of the 2009/2010 school year, Hirsh is given rare access to the Sioux City Community School District, where he captured “up close and disturbing on the ground footage of bullying in classrooms, playgrounds, cafeterias, and school buses,” and in some cases, the overwhelming grief when bullying ends a life.

The film documents the responses of teachers and administrators to aggressive behaviors that defy “kids will be kids” cliches, and it captures a growing movement among parents and youths to change how bullying is handled in schools, in communities and in society as a whole.

Watch the trailer:

The MPAA gaive “Bully” an R-rating on the basis of some language that is used in the film.

Writing for NPR, Linda Holmes calls it a “grotesque irony in declaring that what is portrayed in ‘Bully’ should be softened … because it’s too much for kids to see.”

“Of course it’s too much for kids to see. It’s also too much for kids to live through, walk through, ride the bus with, and go to school with. That’s why they made the movie.

“The entire point of this film is that kids do not live with the protection we often believe they do — many of them live in a terrifying, isolating war zone, and if you hide what it’s like, if you lie about what they’re experiencing, you destroy what is there to be learned. It seems grievously beside the point to worry that the film is too much for kids.”

The U.S. Department of Education’s Office for Safe and Drug-Free Schools estimates that over 13 million American kids will be bullied this year, making it the most common form of violence experienced by young people in the nation.

“With school-age children of my own, I know this is a crucial issue and school districts across the U.S. have responded in kind,” said TWC Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein. “The Cincinnati school district signed on to bus 40,000 of their students to the movie – but because the appeals board retained the R rating, the school district will have to cancel those plans.”

Originally titled “The Bully Project,” the film premiered at the Tribeca Film Festival in New York in April 2011. The film is scheduled for release on March 30, 2012.

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