The saga of “Bully”, a documentary about school kids bullying other school kids, is looking like a big ol’ ego fight.
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Here’s the background. Lee Hirsch has made a documentary entitled ‘Bully’. It is being distributed by The Weinstein Company. The plot centers on 5 families struggling with issues of bullying in schools. Two of these families have lost a child to suicide. One is awaiting word on what will happen to her daughter who had brought a gun to school ostensibly to protect herself. What the film does is expose the lives of those who are bullied by other children.
The film gets its national release on March 30. It has already garnered some fest accolades and is anticipated by many, including educators who want to use it as an instructive tool. Now comes the problem.
The film has gotten an ‘R’ rating due some language the kids use in the film.This will severely limit the number of kids who can see the film. Part of the distribution strategy is to show it schools. And ‘R’ rating makes that nigh impossible. So with the subtlety he is known for, Harvey Weinstein threatened to pull out of the MPAA, the body responsible for ratings, if they didn’t back down and give ‘Bully’ a PG-13 rating.
According to the Weinsteins the MPAA countered by stating that if The Weinstein Company doesn’t itself back down, they would not rate any of their films and instructed their members to consider all Weinstein films as NC17. An NC17 rating would severely handicap any film. The MPAA denies this last part. They said they will instruct their members to construe any unrated films as exactly that, an unrated film.
Everyone is thrusting out their collective chests claiming their tiny bit of real estate in this battle. The central issue is 5 ‘f-bombs’. If the Weinsteins get their way, they will have effectively undermined the self-regulatory censorship that the MPAA does, opening the door for governmental censorship. If the MPAA isn’t careful they will lose credibility with the very people they are supposed to help – filmmakers and studios.
The entire affair is taking on a surreal glow. Families of the bullied children are chiming in. Lawyers for school systems are voicing their opinions and we can expect politicians of a certain stripe to use this as a vehicle to promote their own agenda. Usually this means good box office for the film, but it really begs one major question, “who’s bullying whom?”