Feb. 4, 2013
Bully is a fairly amazing and engaging documentary about
bullying in our schools. The opening scene includes portions of an interview
with the father of a boy who was bullied to the point of committing suicide. We
see footage of Tyler when he was young with his dad. The father says, “I knew he would be victimized at some point
in time.” The film opens with this completely heartbreaking and candid
interview. Tyler died at age 17. We’re immediately drawn into this film, and
this is all before the opening credits.
We are then introduced to several children who have all
suffered from being bullied. The first is Alex, age 12, in Sioux City, Iowa. He
talks about being called “fish face,”
and admits to being nervous about going to school. “I have trouble with making friends,” he says candidly. “Most
kids don’t want to be around me.” It’s impossible to remain detached while
There is some remarkable footage on the school bus,
remarkable in that the children are being natural, taunting and hurting and
threatening Alex, all while on camera.
Another student, Kelby, age 16, living in Tuttle, Oklahoma,
almost immediately tells us that her bullying included being deliberately hit
by a car. This isn’t the usual taunting that many children deal with. Kelby
talks about how she played basketball, and loved it, but had to stop as the other
kids didn’t want to touch her. She tells us she tried to commit suicide three
times. Her parents talk about how when Kelby came out as being gay, people
they’d known for years wouldn’t talk to them, or even look at them. Perhaps the
most incredible (and disturbing) thing about Kelby’s section of the film is
that even the teachers bullied her.
When we’re introduced to Ja’meya Jackson, age 14, she is
in the Yazoo County Juvenile Justice Center. She was bullied, so she retaliated
by threatening her bullies with a gun. That moment was captured by the bus
surveillance camera, and is included in the film.
The film returns to Tyler’s parents in Murray County,
Georgia. Tina Long, Tyler’s mom, talks
about finding his body. And there is footage of a town meeting held five weeks
after Tyler’s death. Devon, age 14, speaks up at the meeting about being
bullied, then tells us he finally stood up for himself and now the bullies
leave him alone.
The last part of the film focuses on outreach efforts to
stop bullying. The film does seem to lose
its forward momentum, but it’s still a really good documentary overall.
This DVD has a lot of bonus material. There are six deleted
scenes, half of which are with Alex. Interestingly, there is a deleted scene
with Caine Smith, age 11, from Texas – a person we aren’t introduced to in the
film. It’s a pretty amazing scene.
There is also a segment titled The Bully Project At Work, which is about one school getting
involved in the fight to stop bullying. All of the students, teachers, and even
bus drivers at Taylor Middle School go to a screening of the movie, and we get
the students’ reactions to the film afterwards.
There is a bit more with Alex, including a segment titled
Alex After Bully, an interview with
him about why he was in the film, and how he has changed as a result. And Alex Raps, which is a couple of minutes
of him performing at No Bull Teen Video Awards.
One of the best features is Sioux City After Bully, which has interviews with parents and
students, including a gay student. And we see the camera system on the school
buses. Another interesting bonus
feature is a segment from Good Morning
America with director Lee Hirsch, David Long, Alex Libby and his mom, Jackie.
Lee says he was bullied as a child. He
also talks about how the cameras weren’t hidden, but were small. He says the
children quickly forgot they were there, answering my question about getting
that incredible footage on the bus.
And there is a short (two minutes) segment titled Meryl Streep On Bullying, in which she
mentions a personal experience from her childhood.
directed by Lee Hirsch. Bully is
scheduled to be released on DVD and Blu-ray on February 12, 2013.