|Lee Hirsch in Toronto for Premiere of Bully - April 2012|
The statistics on Bullying are staggering. This year alone, it is estimated that over 13 million Kids will be bullied. Documentary Maker Lee Hirsch was in Toronto today doing a full day of Press for his controversial new Film Bully, which has been in the news much of late due to its debatable R-rating from the MPAA in the U.S., somewhat defeating its purpose to educate Children on a matter which impacts them directly.
Following its Toronto Premiere at the TIFF Bell Lightbox this evening, a Town Hall was held with a Group of Panelists which included:
- Director Lee Hirsch
- Hon. Laurel Broton (Ontario Minister of Education)
- Jacques St. Pierre (High School Student and Founder of the I Will Make it Better Project)
- Leora Schaefer (Director, Facing History and Ourselves)
- Todd Solomon (Clinical Director, Kids Help Phone)
Hirsch explained to the Audience that his inspiration in making Bully - which lasted a span of three years - was a result of his own Childhood which saw him being bullied also. He goes on to say, "Bullying exists in a construct that's very hard to define and is often met with the response that can be minimizing such as 'Kids will be Kids', or 'This is a rite of passage'.". "I wanted to show it and let people walk in these shoes and experience it.".
When questioned on whether or not she sees Bullying as being a relevant issue here in Canada as it is in the U.S., Hon. Laurel Broton - Ontario's Minister of Education - was firm that she is committed to prioritizing the issue here in Ontario. She says, "We have made progress, but we have more progress to make. We need to teach our Educators how to respond and bring in Experts who know how to respond. Everybody has a role to play.".
Leora Schaefer, Director of Facing History and Ourselves brings up an interesting point that Bullying extends beyond just the Offender and the Victim - it also includes all those who witness it and take a passive stance, hence enabling it. Above this she states, "It's about the tools that Educators need to know w'hat to do in that moment. There is a lack of how to facilitate those conversations in a School ...so that it doesn't happen".
Todd Solomon (Clinical Director, Kids Help Phone) adds that the definition of what we see as "Bullying" needs to be broadened. Like Hirsch, he feels that the term can be perceived as being something minimized - an assault is an assault and often Bullying encompasses this, but oddly isn't thought-of in the same weight.
Jacques St. Pierre who gained local notoriety in inspiring Lady Gaga to record a Video Response to his School's Anti-Bullying Initiative, the I Will Make it Better Project, has nothing but praise for Bully. He calls the Documentary a "Conversation Starter", which is the much-needed first step to starting a Dialogue on the matter for Parents and Kids, whom like himself were bullied.
On the MPAA's controversial decision to give Bully an R-Rating, later resulting in the decision to release it Unrated in the U.S., Hirsch remains optimistic still. He says, "The rating hasn't affected us in the States because people have brought their own thoughtful analysis to the Film and it's been very rewarding". Also, he is hopeful that we are living in a time of change, stating "We can actually step-up and be the Generation that turns the tide on this. This is the moment where ills in our Society have been laid slowly to rest .. and the turning point is now".
Watch some Highlights from the Town Hall below:
Bully opens in theatres Friday, April 6, 2012 via Alliance Films.
Visit its Official Website here.
Enter to win a Size Medium Official Bully Movie T-Shirt here by clicking "like" on this Post at Mr. Will-W.:Pop Maven on Facebook. Enter before May 1, 2012.
(Photo credit: Mr. Will-W.)