There was a huge amount of chatter from media and online when 'Bully' was released in the U.S. earlier this year. There's a very good reason for that; sure, it's a topical issue these days, but this is a film that deserves - and asks to be - discussed.
This very confronting documentary reveals the inner workings of several ordinary people whose lives are complicated by bullying. There's Alex, who is taunted and physically abused from the moment he leaves his doorstep in the morning to the time he returns in the evening. Kelly is a lesbian from a small, religious town in Oklahoma. Ja’Meya took extreme action against bullies and is paying the price. There's also intimate stories from families who have lost a child to the relentless bullying, and a glimpse at what they do to try to fill the hole left in their lives.
Though all different ages and from locations across the U.S., there's one thread that unites the kids featured in this film - the bullying they are exposed to on a constant basis has taken a huge toll on their lives. Throughout the time we spend with them, we see their confidence worn, their tolerance pushed, and their spirits destroyed.
'Bully' is a snapshot of the current problem. 13 million American kids will be bullied this year. This documentary highlights the epidemic of bullying there and around the world, and despite the technological age, a huge amount of the attacks in this film are still face-to-face - but moreso, 'Bully' reveals how little is actually being done about the issue.
It's not until towards the end of this film, when we see the parents who lost a child to bullying draw their communities together to put a stop to the problem, that you release how little action has been taken against the problem. The documentary displays the misguided care of teachers, the unawareness of parents, the silent suffering of students. There are few repercussions for bullies, if they are caught, and little support for victims.
The documentary displays the misguided care of teachers, the unawareness of parents, the silent suffering of students.
Director Lee Hirsch's work on this is clearly driven by passion towards the subject matter - he was personally bullied during his time at school - and the film reveals a great deal of work in gaining the trust of victims and families to tell this story. There are real acts of violence and teasing caught on camera by Hirsch that can only make you question why the bullies would ever choose to act out in such a manner. It's confronting, yet completely necessary.
'Bully' has been making the rounds this year - it's made its way to a few festivals and charity screenings already - but if you haven't seen it, make sure you do. This film isn't about tricks. It's not about big budgets. It's about emotions. It's also one of the best films of 2012 and an unforgettable, powerful documentary with a story that needs to be heard.