Following the controversy over its initial R rating, the documentary Bully (2011) will debut on March 30, without an MPAA rating. The use of foul language earned the original rating, although advocates for the film and the issues that it highlights point out that there was no other practical way to display schoolyard bullying. A press release by the Weinstein Company elaborates:
After a recent plea to the MPAA by BULLY teen Alex Libby and The Weinstein Company (TWC), Co-Chairman Harvey Weinstein failed – by one vote – to get the film its deserved PG-13 rating. TWC is choosing to move forward with releasing the film unrated by the MPAA on March 30.
The argument continues that the R rating is inappropriate for a film that’s meant to educate and help parents, teachers, school officials, and children with what’s become an epidemic in schools around the country. The outpour of support by politicians, schools, parents, celebrities, and activists for the film’s mission to be seen by those it was made for – children – has been overwhelming. Nearly half a million people have signed Michigan high school student and former bullying victim Katy Butler’s petition on Change.org to urge the MPAA to change the rating.
Said Bully director Lee Hirsch, “The small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the R rating is there because it’s real. It’s what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days. All of our supporters see that, and we’re grateful for the support we’ve received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it’s up to the theaters to let them in.”
TWC President of Marketing, Stephen Bruno, said, “The kids and families in this film are true heroes, and we believe theater owners everywhere will step up and do what’s right for the benefit of all of the children out there who have been bullied or may have otherwise become bullies themselves. We’re working to do everything we can to make this film available to as many parents, teachers, and students across the country.”
“While it’s often heartbreaking and deals with tough issues like suicide, the movie addresses bullying in a frank and relatable way that is age appropriate for teens and relevant for middle schoolers if an adult is present to guide the discussion,” said James P. Steyer, Founder and CEO of Common Sense Media. “The MPAA’s ratings system is inadequate when it comes looking at a movie’s content through the lens of its larger thematic issues. Common Sense Media provides alternative ratings for parents who are looking for more guidance and context than the MPAA provides.”
Bully will be released in theaters on Friday, March 30, in New York at the Angelika Film Center and AMC Lincoln Square, and in Los Angeles at the Landmark, ArcLight Hollywood, and AMC Century City.
Bully is a beautifully cinematic, character-driven documentary. At its heart are people whose stories each represent a different facet of America’s bullying crisis. Filmed over the course of the 2009-2010 school year, Bully opens a window onto the pained and often endangered lives of bullied kids, revealing a problem that transcends geographic, racial, ethnic, and economic borders. It 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.
For parents or teachers who are looking for more information or may have concerns about showing children a movie unrated by the MPAA, please read Common Sense Media’s rating details of the film here: http://www.commonsensemedia.org/movie-reviews/bully.