I never go to see a documentary expecting to leave uplifted or happy, which was an appropriate attitude for watching “Bully,” directed by Lee Hirsch.
“Bully” is a raw and artistic showcase of a gut-wrenching issue. It is compelling, stirring and eye-opening, especially for those of us who are not well connected to kids of the middle or high school age. School faculty and parents should see it to be aware of a nationwide issue that they or their children could help prevent.
The film begins with the story of one boy who was bullied and eventually committed suicide to take his stand. The heavy start was needed to prepare the audience for what else was to come.
“Bully” follows five kids and their families for one school year to show what they struggle through. The film shows that bullying is such a broad problem that it is hard to know how to begin ending it.
The film is a mixture of interviews, video footage inside buses and classrooms and then artistic transition shots. These bring a sense of peace that is much-needed after each scene.
Instead of using facts and statistics of how many kids commit suicide or skip school on a regular basis to avoid other students, “Bully” uses characters and their emotional situations to stir the viewer.
A surprising element of the movie is the kids have more sense about the situations than the adults from the school systems.
I was constantly shaking my head at how school administrators and public officials handled certain situations. After one student brought a gun onto a bus after being pushed to the limit by mental and verbal abuse, a police official said that he did not think the defense was justifiable unless she had been physically abused day after day, as if a certain type or amount of bullying is worse than another.
Another aspect of modern bullying is that anyone can be the victim. The main characters range from an honors student and basketball star, to a teenage lesbian in a very conservative town, to a boy who was too kind to fight back, and also to a boy who wanted to become the bully himself, because he had endured it for so long.
“Bully” does not provide a closure or total grasp of the various situations. One of the kids could have been enough to focus an entire documentary on. Each type of bullying, the family response to the abuse, how each school handles the situation and whether or not the child progresses to better mental health is different in every story. The movie leaves you wanting to know more.
After I left the theatre, I looked up the documentaries website. It is part of a nationwide movement to make schools safer and even has a guide for how to use it in the classroom.
I would be hesitant to show “Bully” to kids younger than high school level, because of the language, violence and intense theme of suicide or suicidal thoughts. However, this film gives the idea that “kids will be kids” a new meaning.
The film unveils what students experience on a daily basis, which often goes under the radar of many adults.
If you want to be shaken to your core with honest stories that rivet with the pain of these kids lives, “Bully” has two more showings at the Lyric tonight.
Change starts with one, which can begin by knowing what happens in today’s school systems.