It may well be the most talked-about documentary in America. The subjects of Bully and its director, Lee Hirsch, have appeared on nearly every news program in the country since their visit to Columbia in March for True/False Film Fest. The filmmaker used hidden cameras on school buses and inside real middle and high schools in our country to show the severity of bullying some kids are facing in their everyday lives. Because of the violent reality of what happens in those public places, the MPAA assigned an R rating for the film’s theatrical release. But Hirsch, his subjects, and the film’s distributor, Harvey Weinstein, wanted this film to be viewed by kids and parents everywhere. After much debate, Hirsch relented to the removal of some of the expletive language in the film, but demanded that a harsh scene depicting bullies in action be left intact. The rating for the theatrical release version of the film was reassigned as PG-13 without cutting the critical scene. Now the PG-13 version of the film opens at Ragtag Cinema in Columbia on Friday, May 18.
Many ticket seekers had to be turned away due to the overwhelmingly positive response to Bully during its two sold-out screenings at Jesse Hall and Missouri Theatre during the True/False Film Fest. This situation resulted in a promise to the community to bring the film back to the organization’s home-base theatre, Ragtag Cinema during its theatrical run. The film’s local sponsor during the fest, The Crossing also continues its commitment to the film’s message through a generous donation that will provide a free ticket for up to 500 kids under the age of 18 who attend the film with a parent’s paid admission. The Crossing has been a long time sponsor of the fest’s True Life Film and Fund. Each year T/F co-founders and programmers David Wilson and Paul Sturtz select one film as the True Life Film, and for 2012 that film was Bully. The fund is an opportunity to give back to the subjects of a documentary film who have given their story to the world, despite how painful the story might be, and most often, with no monetary compensation for having done so. This year, the True Life Fund raised $15,000 from community members and a grant from the Bertha Foundation matched those efforts, so that the families featured in Bully were awarded a total of $30,000.
Dave Cover, pastor at The Crossing, commented on the importance of this film, “Every adult knows that bullying is not new. But now with today’s 24-hour social media, victims of bullying can never really go home. And the pain and the isolation from being bullied are far more intense today than in the past. So I think the playing field has changed significantly today. And parents and teachers and everyone else need to become aware of the new realities. This film is a tremendous tool in opening our eyes to that and hopefully sparking important conversations at home and at school.”
“So often we screen very moving films and afterward, the audience wants to ‘do something’… with this film, it’s really easy for us to do something,” remarked Tracy Lane, Executive Director for Ragtag Programming for Film and Media Art (the parent organization of Ragtag Cinema and True/False Film Fest). “As a parent of a middle-school student in Columbia, we are very fortunate that our kids have a reasonably safe environment for learning in this community. But there is room for improvement, and I think parents should shoulder some responsibility for making sure their own kids are not damaging that environment, or suffering silently as was Alex’s case in the film. We’re offering a chance to facilitate change…see this film with your kids, and encourage them to talk about what’s going on in their schools, their lives and in our shared community.”
Adult tickets are $8.50 and available daily for that day’s screenings at Ragtag Cinema. The box office opens one hour before the first screening each day. One free student ticket will be issued upon request with each paid adult admission. Free tickets are not available online. Showtimes will be published beginning Monday, May 14 by 5pm at www.ragtagfilm.com
For information about Ragtag Cinema contact Tracy Lane
For information about The True Life Fund contact Jessica Repa
For information about The Crossing
For information about The Bertha Foundation
For information about Bully