After weeks of struggle with the Motion Picture Association of America over the rating of the upcoming documentary Bully, The Weinstein Company has decided to release the film as unrated rather than with the “R” rating the MPAA had originally assigned it. Bully will open in select theaters this weekend, on March 30.
Directed by Lee Hirsch, Bully takes an uncompromising look at the issue of bullying as it affects school children in the U.S. today. Hirsch says the purpose of the film is “to change hearts and minds in order to stop this epidemic, which has scarred countless lives…” Studies have shown that LGBT adolescents face demonstrably higher rates of bullying than their peers.
Following its premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival, Bully was acquired by The Weinstein Company for distribution. Harvey Weinstein himself said that “As a parent of four, bullying is an issue that concerns me deeply, and I jumped at the opportunity to be involved with a film that could help eradicate this plague once and for all.”
Unfortunately the MPAA decided to assign the film an “R” rating, citing scenes which include children swearing as a reason, which would make it impossible to show the film in schools. Ironically, those scenes were documentary footage of the reality that many bullied children are faced with on a daily basis, which the MPAA deemed unfit to be seen by children. As Hirsch himself explains, “The small amount of language in the film that’s responsible for the R rating is there because it’s real. It’s what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days.” Following that ruling in February, TWC began a campaign to appeal the rating.
They weren’t alone in their attempts either. Openly gay high school student Katy Butler started a Change.org petition to get the film’s rating changed as well. That petition now boasts nearly half a million signatures. On March 7, Butler travelled all the way from Ann Arbor, Michigan to hand-deliver the petition to the MPAA’s offices. As a former victim of bullying herself, Butler understood the important effect a film like Bully could have on young people.
Her determination and passion didn’t go unnoticed either. Butler made an appearance on the Ellen DeGeneres Show, and this past weekend Harvey Weinstein himself presented Butler with a Special Recognition Award for her efforts at the 23rd Annual GLAAD Media Awards in New York.
See video and photos from that event here. As for Bully, whether or not kids are able to see it this weekend may end up being decided by individual theater owners and how they decide to handle a film without the MPAA’s guidance. At least one major theater chain has vowed to make the film available though. AMC Theaters CEO Gerry Lopez has promised “AMC will show this movie, and we invite our guests to engage in the dialogue its relevant message will inevitably provoke.” Look for more information on how you can see the film on our blog later this week.