Important movie alert: THE BULLY PROJECT

The Weinstein Company recently purchased a film at the Tribeca Film Festival that seems destined to join the ranks of Davis Guggenheim’s AN INCONVENIENT TRUTH. What, you say, could be as relevant as Al Gore explaining the imminent downfall of the very earth on which we live? Childhood bullying. And the film, Lee Hirsch’s THE BULLY PROJECT, feels extraordinarily pressing. Why? Because the generation of those who are bullied and those who do the bullying are tomorrow’s adults, and their general mental health affects just about everything. And if you’re a parent or a teacher, or currently attending middle or high school yourself – it’s required viewing.

Once upon a time, children bullied other children just like today, but adults actually acted as figures of authority. They may have engaged in more punitive methodologies, but at least nobody was getting slammed against a wall at recess when an adult was around. This film demonstrates that in our day, adult presence does not signify impending behavioral, um…adjustments. Over the course of an entire school year, Lee Hirsch manages to capture some egregious interactions, starring both children and adults.

He begins with a series of heartbreaking interviews, first with families who’ve lost children to suicide provoked by bullying, then with those currently being bullied and their families. Those interviews are peppered with verite footage that catches children squarely in the act, in addition to private meetings between school administrators and the bullies/bullied. On all fronts, it is NOT pretty. At a post screening Q&A at the Hamptons International Film Festival this past weekend, Hirsch explained that the children bullying on camera simply did not feel threatened by the presence of an adult, and that some adults, including bus drivers, hadn’t interfered in the past and so would likely not interfere – ever.

When administrators behave badly on camera and dismiss violent exchanges, it’s more complex. Seasoned educators who seem to care simply were unable or unwilling to confront bullying head on. It makes for very dramatic material, and a very moving filmgoing experience. Luckily, the film also provides answers – simple and effective tools – detailed on their site. Catch the film at a festival this fall or in theaters this March. It’s gonna be big.