Release date: March 30, 2012 (ltd., wide release April 13, 2012)
Directed by: Lee Hirsch
Written by: Lee Hirsch and Cynthia Lowen
Featuring: Alex, Ja’Meya, Kelby, David Long, Tina Long, Kirk Smalley
Running Time: 94 minutes
Bully examines five victims of peer abuse. Unfortunately, we’ll only be able to meet three of them … because the other two children are dead.
While we learn very few facts and statistics in this searing, cinéma vérité rendering of adolescent mistreatment, the one fact we do hear is that, according to the U.S. Department of Education, the estimated number of bullied kids comes in at over 13 million per year. Bullying that traverses class, race and geography, that might target ethnicity, religion, sexual orientation, disability … or maybe nothing at all. Maybe, as in the case of 12-year-old Alex from Sioux City, Iowa, it’s the fact that his lips are bigger than most, earning him the nickname “Fish Face.”
Award-winning documentarian Lee Hirsch (Amandla! A Revolution in Four Part Harmony) and co-writer Cynthia Lowen were granted the unusual permission to film throughout the Sioux City School District for the 2009-2010 school year. As Hirsch states, “Our primary goal – which was also our primary challenge – was to actually capture bullying on camera … the only way to do this was to embed ourselves at a school, preferably for the length of the academic year.” Given that they were able to record the action on what looked to be a still camera (a Canon 5D Mark II), they soon became figurative flies on the wall. And subsequently experienced no disruption in their ability to bear videographic witness, both at the school and in the bully’s go-to venue of torture, that claustrophobic teen hotbed on wheels, a/k/a the iconic yellow school bus.
For the full review (and Kimberly’s rating): click here