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Bully packs a punch at Phoenix Film Festival

MONTE YAZZIE ~ SPECIAL FOR THE FOOTHILLS FOCUS~ 4/4/2012

Amidst a cloud of speculation and controversy, the Phoenix Film Festival premiered Bully in front of a packed theater of eager viewers. The crowd was a mix of film festival fans, parents and kids, educators, and media outlets searching for pre-show commentary from the audience. Bully recently has found media mobility from parent and educator advocates, politicians, and celebrities, each group fighting for the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to release the film with a less restrictive rating. The Weinstein Company, which is distributing the film, has decided to release the film without a rating after the MPAA denied the appeal process. While Bully efficiently tackles the subject matter headlong, there are thought provoking questions underlying the narrative that are bound to rise after viewing.

Bully is directed by Lee Hirsch, a seasoned documentary filmmaker, and revolves around the bullying issue in America. The film focuses the attention on a group of diverse youth, each living in different areas of America. Torment, and tragedy, abounds throughout the documentary, while Hirsch unflinchingly allows the eye of the camera to play as a window for the viewer to watch. The audience lives with these characters, whether it’s walking to school, riding the bus, or wandering the school hallways, you can feel the tension thickening with each confrontation. It’s disturbing to watch the blatant moral disregard and violent, menacing threats that these children encounter on a daily basis and how deeply affected these children are because of it, yet inspiring to see the amount of strength some of them have. The film journeys into the homes and schools, encounters family structures and authority figures, and raises questions of how one would correct or solve the issue of bullying. However, while the film explores in depth the torment and tragedy that bullying has, it would be interesting to view the coin from the other side and examine the reason the bullies are harassing, as I assume a realm of disquieting issues have contributed to such behavior. The ultimate success Hirsch achieves lies in the fact that his film is creating discussion, which surrounds an issue that is somewhat overlooked or, at times, disregarded as typical behavior. Bully is a good documentary that raises concern; it mixes fear and tragedy with elements of hope and tolerance. Though some might feel uncomfortable with the amount of disturbing content and harsh language, it also serves as an insightful look into behavior our children will encounter.
Bully finds a theatrical release locally this month; and for other great documentaries, and films, check out the Phoenix Film Festival which continues through Thursday.

Monte’s Rating…4 out of 5