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Bully, Lee Hirsch’s documentary following several children dealing with bullying, has been in the media spotlight due to The Weinstein Company’s decision to release the film unrated rather than with the R rating from the MPAA.
At the film’s premiere, producer Cynthia Lowen talked to The Hollywood Reporter about the decision to release the film unrated. The documentary hits theaters in Los Angeles and New York on March 30, before a wider release.
“We wanted to depict honestly what bullying sounds like, how pervasive it is and this language — those six uses of the F word, which is why this film has an R rating — that’s part of bullying,” she said.
“And so for us not to have it in a film about bullying is to participate in the myth that it’s not that bad, it’s not that pervasive, to say that kids aren’t hearing this every time they get on the bus,” she added. “But they are, so we don’t want to look the other way.”
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. Director Lee 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).
But of course the ratings debacle wasn’t the only challenge with making this film, which films children in school on the school bus. Lowen told THR that she thought it would be extremely difficult to get the parents of the children who are bullies to agree to sign the release form.
However, Lowen said that every single parent who they approached agreed to have their child participate in the film.
“Knowing what the film was about, knowing what we wanted to do with the film and knowing the impact that we wanted this film to have, they made what I this was a really courageous decision,” she said.
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