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Bully, Lee Hirsch’s documentary following several families who have been affected by bullying, has been in the media spotlight lately as The Weinstein Company has been battling against the R rating the film received.
At the premiere for the film, which opens in theaters in L.A. and New York on March 30, Hirsch spoke to The Hollywood Reporter about the ratings drama surrounding his film.
“People are frustrated. They feel like this rating was unjust,” he said. “They’re tired of the double standard of gratuitous violence getting through and a film that could actually do some good that’s not about just exploitation getting slammed with this rating.”
Just hours before the premiere, The Weinstein Company announced that they would release Bully as unrated rather than using the R rating it was given by the Motion Picture Association of America. Hirsch said he felt this was the “right thing to do.”
The documentary was given an R rating due to the swear words used during parts of the film. The Weinstein Company began a very public appeal of the rating, arguing that a movie with such a powerful message needed to be seen by teens and children under the age of 18. Politicians, Hollywood celebrities and educators across the country got behind the cause, pushing for a change in rating to PG-13. Hundreds of thousands signed a petition that was delivered to the MPAA.
Harvey Weinstein and Hirsh lost their appeal to overturn the rating by one vote during at a recent hearing of the Classification and Ratings Administration, which has set guidelines about language (violence and sex are more subjective).
When asked about making the film, much of which was shot in schools and school buses — both environments notoriously hard to access — Hirsch credited the Sioux City schools in Iowa for giving him access to their classrooms and students.
“They’re on the road to making change. They did it because of that,” he said. “They said if this film teaches us something, if it can illuminate this problem, then we’re all for it.”
Hirsch also spoke about his decision in intervene into the life of on particular child, Alex. After Alex, who deals will bullying on a daily basis, is involved in a particularly violent episode, his parents and school officials are shown some of the footage that Hirsch had shot.
“I think that the whole movie was an intervention,” Hirsch said. “It was the right thing to do. It didn’t matter what happened to us as filmmakers at that point.”
Many actors including Joel McHale, Gillian Jacobs, Aisha Tyler and Victoria Justice, attended the premiere at the Chinese 6 Theatres in Hollywood to support the film.
When THR asked Hirsch about the overall message of his film, he said it was that “everybody can make a difference.”
“You don’t have to change the world to stop bullying,” he said. “You have to just make a decision. And every single person that sees this has access to that movement.”
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