A quick disclaimer, this post deals with a documentary that addresses bullying and suicide. If you think this might be upsetting for you, feel free to skip. No graphic details, I'm just reviewing this PG13 rated film.
Another day, another film for Sydney Film Festival. This time I was up bright and early for a film that I knew would be a bit hard to watch. The film is Bully and it's a new documentary about bullying in American schools. I was pretty disappointed when I saw the audience, they were mostly older people who had passes. I had been hoping to see some younger teenagers and perhaps school teachers in there. The lady sitting next to us actually had no idea what film she was there to see or what it was even called! I hope it is reaching the 'right' audience at other screenings. Or that I misjudged the people and they were actually in a position to do something.
Bully follows the families of 5 teenagers in the American school system over an entire school year. Two of the families have lost their children through suicide. It was very difficult to watch the parents of the children who had passed away, dealing with the aftermath and their feelings of anger and guilt over the situation that had escalated to such a terrible conclusion. Many of the families of the bullied children in the film had no idea of the extent of the suffering that the children endured daily. One of the bullied children Alex (12), after film-makers reveal footage of his torment on the bus to his parents and teachers, has to address the issue with his mother. When she tells him that people who beat him and stab him (with pencils) and subject him to other physical and mental abuse are not his friends, he replies “If you say these people aren’t my friends, then what friends do I have?”
It is so heartbreaking to watch these kids trying to fit in, or at least put up with the bullying until they can 'escape'. When issues are brought up with various people in authority, there is the attitude that "kids will be kids" and that nothing can be done. The film does not delve into the reasons for the bullying, or get the opinions from the bullies themselves. It really focuses on the consequences that bullying can have on a child and their family. I'm OK with this, as I don't need to hear excuses or attempts at justification for this behavior.
If you're interested in reading more detailed reviews of the film, check for a list here. The film's website has a lot of resources for students, parents, teachers and advocates which you can find here. I encourage everyone to watch the film, even if you aren't a student, parent or teacher. In my experience bullying doesn't necessarily end in school and is a problem that everyone deals with at some point in their life.
Sorry if this post is depressing and serious, but I really felt like I needed to discuss the film after seeing it today, it really hit home with me. I, like every other kid, experienced bullying. You realise when you look back how much it hurts you still, after all these years. I'm pretty sure that bullying is built in to human nature. People attack what they are afraid of in themselves. I truly hope that if I ever have children they will be able to live in a world where people are taught to respect each other and have empathy and ethics. I hope people who see this film, young and old, will think before they speak and act. I hope people will realise that when you're at rock bottom, things will get better. It takes time.
Thanks for reading guys :)