Sunday, April 8, 2012


Still from Bully
After a proper amount of Controversy comes the release of Lee Hirsch's Documentary, Bully - one of the most important Films to hit theatres in 2012. Like a fly on the wall, Hirsch infiltrates the school buses, homes, classrooms and hangouts of five American Youth whose lives have been changed irreversibly by the act of Bullying.

Alex is a Middle School Student labelled by his peers as "creepy" and we see him get jabbed and punched on a daily basis - his Parents completely oblivious to the extent of Bullying he is experiencing. Ja'Maya, an athletic Honour Student, facing several serious charges after pulling a gun on her Tormentors one day on their school bus. Kelby is a Lesbian in High School who along with her Family has faced alienation from their tight-knit Community after she decides to "out" herself; we learn she almost was run-over by a Mini-Van. Not all these Victims lived to tell their stories, as Tyler Long and Ty Smalley both committed Suicide as a result of the pressures they faced from their Peers.  We see their Families try to pick-up the pieces after Devastation.

Although I'll be the first to admit that I found its shaky camera work and oft-blurred focus a tad nauseating, this can be overlooked as we quickly are drawn-in to the fascinating stories of Bully's Subjects. Hirsch enables us to perceive the Worlds of these young People with empathy and compassion, daring to go to uncomfortable places with these Kids and their Families as they open-up candidly about their own individual losses.

If we can take away just one thing from watching Bully, it should be the fact that we enable the act of Bullying by not taking action and this is just as wrong as the act of Bullying itself. This goes all the way up-the-chain to our School Systems and Providers of Education failing to acknowledge that Bullying is indeed a a severe problem.  This applies also all the way down to our individual attitudes and perceptions in how many of us see Bullying as a tolerable thing and hence, acceptable.

Despite lacking solid insight to real solutions, Bully still illustrates many of the problems which need to be addressed by Society at large on the matter, and serves well as a Dialogue Starter in a Conversation which so desperately needs to be had in every School, north and south of the Border.  I wish Bully were made when I was in Grade School - things would definitely have been different.

Alliance Films releases Bully in Toronto at Varsity Cinemas exclusively April 6, 2012 and expands to Vancouver and Montreal, April 13, 2012.

Click here to read about the Town Hall on Bully held last week in Toronto at TIFF Bell Lightbox and win an official Bully T-Shirt.