Bullying is an unfortunate common occurrence among children. Seeking to bring a new understanding and awareness to this epidemic, Lee Hirsch followed families affected by bullies and documented the trauma experienced both by the children and their loved ones.
Tyler, a young boy plagued by the significant presence of bullying, took his life because he felt unable to deal with the torment. Leaving behind a void in his family’s hearts, his parents attempted to accommodate their remaining children’s needs to help them cope with the loss and repurpose Tyler’s old bedroom into an office used for research and advocacy against bullying. When they have confronted the school system, they have been met with excuses and lack of acceptance of responsibility.
Alex is a 12-year kid who struggles to find his voice against the bullies on the bus and at his school. As the cameras follow him, they capture some teasing and comments at the bus stop, physical violence on the bus and ribbing in the halls of the school. While Alex does have communication with educators, even his parents struggle to help get him the support he needs. The vice principle both acknowledges that Alex is getting bullied and that she has little feeling of control to make any sort of difference. She even makes Alex feel like it is partially his fault with the way she pressures him during her questioning of the situation.
This theme seems to continue through a couple of the stories, as the educators let the kids known to be bullying off the hook during their conversations while failing to empower the students struggling to simply deal with the pressures of going to their schools. Hirsch essentially tries to portray the educators as at least contributors to the continuation of bullying, if not actual bullies themselves. There is a strong sense of denial that educators are either too overwhelmed or cannot handle the chaos of children.
In a bit of a different twist, Ja’Meya is a young girl who finally felt like she could not take the abuse and decided to act against it. She brought a gun on the bus with her and drew it on the rest of the kids on the bus when she felt threatened by her peers. While tackled and subdued, she was sentenced to detention and counseling, but the story allows viewers to see her full arch. She is able to return home and exhibits the elation of feeling like she has a fresh take on life and chance to appreciate what she had.
The film ends with a tribute to the lost children due to bullying and violence. It is a tender moment with speeches and connections with current youth to empower them to be aware and respond to concerns of bullying. Attached to this film is a campaign that looks to educate and encourage advocacy. For more details: http://www.thebullyproject.com/.
In the end, the film’s subject matter is timely and well presented, but there are some times where the stories lose a little steam and opportunity to provide more depth into the challenges of this issue. The educators are really portrayed in a poor light, which missed the efforts that actually try to address these issues.
Dan’s Rating: 3.5/5