Hunger Games comes out this weekend amid some controversy over its PG-13 rating. The issue? Hunger Games, based on the young adult novel, centers on a dystopian world where teenagers become killers in battle. Bully, a 2011 popular winner around the film festival circuit, including a Tribeca Film Festival win, has received an R rating for documenting a disturbing world — violence and verbal abuse in schools. A double standard or just the Motion Picture Association of America assigning ratings while blindfolded?
Theoretically, an R rating prevents anyone under age 17 from seeing the movie unless an adult accompanies them. While kids sneak (or just walk) into R and NC-17 movies all the time, it’s usually to see a film that maybe they really shouldn’t be seeing. Risqué is the draw, right? But with Bully you have a film that teenagers should take class field trips to see, yet it lacks the typical R elements that might have kids lying about their age to get in, especially the bullies who don’t want to watch their way of life disparaged.
Lee Hirsch, an Emmy-award winning filmmaker and the documentary’s director, followed five kids and their families (and their few friends) over the course of the 2009-2010 school year. The Bully Project’s website and Bully’s trailer present distressing facts and footage, but hopefully will open some eyes and minds and call people to action. It was enough to wake me up at 4am to write and pass on the news.
One of the boys featured in the pre-released videos says, “Pretty much a good day for me would be people leaving their hands off of me.” It might be easier and more entertaining to watch fake kids fake harm and kill each other with special effects, but it might be more productive for real kids (and adults) to watch the real effects and consequences of their deplorable actions.
Bully opens in select theaters on March 30, but you can visit its website to demand that it play in Baltimore.