You will be redirected back to your article in seconds

The Bully Project

Lee Hirsch's "The Bully Project" serves as a call to action against abuse of students by their peers as it follows, over the course of a year, five sobering case histories of unrelenting schoolyard persecution.

With: Alex, Ja'Maya, Kelby, Tina Long, David Long, Kirk Smalley.

Lee Hirsch’s “The Bully Project” serves as a call to action against abuse of students by their peers as it follows, over the course of a year, five sobering case histories of unrelenting schoolyard persecution. Crosscutting among the stories, Hirsch supplies little discussion of the whys, wherefores or history of the phenomenon, but rather concentrates on the kids, parents and school officials directly involved. Timely subject matter should generate buzz for this Weinstein Co. pickup, which is slated for municipal/educational showings and also figures to translate well to the smallscreen.

Docu reveals that more than 18 million American kids a year are affected by bullying, with some driven to suicide — including two of the cases profiled here. The five studies represented in the film show different types of situations, reactions and (perhaps) resolutions to an endemic problem.

By the time Hirsch catches up with scholarly, quiet 14-year-old Ja’meya, she is in a reformatory facing 22 felony counts for drawing a gun on fellow school bus riders who had been tormenting her for years.

In the next study, featuring 14-year-old Alex, a camera provides firsthand footage of such harrassment, observing a bus ride in which kids knock things out of his hands, shove, strangle and punch him, keeping up a steady stream of vituperative, sadistically detailed death threats while gleefully being egged on by peers.

Perhaps most shocking is the extent to which this violent behavior is accepted as normal, shrugged off as “boys will be boys.” One assistant principal forces a bully and his victim to shake hands to “resolve” the conflict. Alex’s father is seen advising him to stand up to the other kids to prove he’s not a punching bag, as if that were a prerequisite for being treated like a human being.

Certainly no one would mistake 16-year-old star athlete Kelby for a punching bag. But when she comes out as gay, she is insulted, ostracized, deliberately struck by a car and denied a place on sports teams she once dominated. In interviews, she initially refuses to leave her small Oklahoma hometown for more tolerant pastures, adamant in her belief she can make a difference. After months of oppression, however, she realizes she cannot do so alone.

Hirsch’s film begins and ends with interviews of the families of two boys — one 17, the other 12 — who committed suicide to escape bullying. After battling school boards in vain, they now network with other victims, their families and loved ones, seeking to effect change collectively. Hirsch documents the action as they set up town meetings and statehouse rallies to build a grassroots movement to honor the memories of their sons.

The Bully Project

Production: A Weinstein Co. release of a Where We Live production. (International sales: Submarine Entertainment, New York.) Produced by Lee Hirsch, Cynthia Lowen. Executive producer, Cindy Waitt. Directed by Lee Hirsch. Written by Cynthia Lowen, Hirsch.

Crew: Camera (color, HD), Hirsch; editor, Lindsay Utz, Jenny Golden; music, Ion Furjanic, Justin Rice, Christian Rudder; music supervisor, Brooke Wentz; supervising sound editor, Al Nelson. Reviewed at the Tribeca Film Center, April 17, 2011. (In Tribeca Film Festival -- competing.) Running time: 99 MIN.

Cast: With: Alex, Ja'Maya, Kelby, Tina Long, David Long, Kirk Smalley.

More Scene

  • Donald Trump Chucky Childs Play

    'Child's Play' Stars on New Chucky's 'Creepy' Resemblance to Donald Trump

    At Wednesday night’s world premiere of the “Child’s Play” remake, it was obvious that evil doll Chucky — the star of seven films over three decades — had a little work done. And now he bears a striking resemblance to Donald Trump. “Oh, you caught that?” Aubrey Plaza asked Variety on the black carpet outside [...]

  • Cara Delevingne attends The Trevor Project's

    Cara Delevingne Recalls Producers Saying That Being Queer Will Hurt Her Career

    Hollywood may be celebrating LGBTQ Pride Month with displays of the rainbow flag and lots of talk about supporting diversity and inclusion, but Cara Delevingne says there’s still work to be done. “Behind closed doors, we are still being told, as I have, by powerful Hollywood producers that we can’t make it if we’re queer,” [...]

  • Kiernan Shipka and Ross LynchMTV Movie

    MTV Movie & TV Awards: What You Didn't See on TV

    Many of the biggest stars in movies and television — including Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson, Jada Pinkett Smith, Kiernan Shipka, Sandra Bullock, Tessa Thompson and Brie Larson — came together to present and receive honors at the 2019 MTV Movie & TV Awards, hosted by “Shazam!” star Zachary Levi. And while non-attendees are able to enjoy [...]

  • Dan Stevens

    'Legion' Star Dan Stevens Says His Character Would Fight Thanos, 'Wreak Havoc' in MCU

    Dan Stevens said his powerful, telepathic mutant Legion would do some serious damage if he ever crossed over from the eponymous FX series into the Marvel Cinematic Universe. “Legion would wreak havoc. He’d probably take on Thanos, let’s see that,” he told Variety on the red carpet at the premiere of the trippy, mind-bending superhero series [...]

More From Our Brands

Access exclusive content