UPDATE, MARCH 26, 3:50 P.M.: After failing by one vote to get the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) to change the rating of Bully from an R to a more-appropriate PG-13, the controversial anti-bullying documentary will be released in theaters Friday with no rating at all, distributor the Weinstein Co. announced today. The film company's co-chairman, Harvey Weinstein, and a teen who appears in the doc, Alex Libby, had personally pleaded to the MPAA, and nearly half a million people signed Michigan high school student Katy Butler's petition seeking the ratings change.
The MPAA claims the rating is warranted because of inappropriate language, but Weinstein, the filmmakers and Bully supporters believe those words are necessary to maintain the documentary's authenticity.
"The small amount of language in the film that's responsible for the R rating is there because it's real," director Lee Hirsch says in a statement released by the Weinstein Co. "It's what the children who are victims of bullying face on most days. All of our supporters see that, and we're grateful for the support we've received across the board. I know the kids will come, so it's up to the theaters to let them in."
"The kids and families in this film are true heroes, and we believe theater owners everywhere will step up and do what's right for the benefit of all of the children out there who have been bullied or may have otherwise become bullies themselves," says Stephen Bruno, the Weinstein Co.'s president of marketing, in the same release. "We're working to do everything we can to make this film available to as many parents, teachers and students across the country."
Visit Common Sense Media, which provides guidance on the appropriateness of all types of media for young people, for an explanation of the ratings process and why parents and teachers should take youths to see Bully.
"While it's often heartbreaking and deals with tough issues like suicide, the movie addresses bullying in a frank and relatable way that is age appropriate for teens and relevant for middle schoolers if an adult is present to guide the discussion," claims James P. Steyer, Common Sense Media's CEO. "The MPAA's ratings system is inadequate when it comes looking at a movie's content through the lens of its larger thematic issues."
Bully is scheduled to be released Friday in New York and The Landmark, ArcLight Hollywood and AMC Century City in Los Angeles County before wider distribution later.
UPDATE, MARCH 20, 1:59 P.M.: Tonight's screening in Newport Beach of the controversial anti-bullying documentary Bully will be followed by a panel discussion featuring Dr. Jerry Weichman, a recognized bullying expert.
The clinical psychologist who is on staff at Hoag Hospital has presented his "Be the Anti-Bully" to thousands of schoolchildren at California middle and high schools.
ORIGINAL POST, MARCH 7, 11:35 A.M.: An anti-bullying documentary whose R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) sparked outrage and a petition drive to overturn the censors' decision is coming to Newport Beach.
The Orange County Film Society is scheduled to roll Bully at 7:30 p.m. Tuesday, March 20, at the Regency Lido Theatre.
Director Lee Hirsch's film, which was co-written by Cynthia Lowen, focuses on five youths and their families who have had their lives touched by bullying. It's estimated 13 million kids will be bullied this year.
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Katy Butler, an Ann Arbor, Michigan, high school student who has herself been bullied, is collecting signatures aimed at overturning the MPAA rating, which is something Harvey Weinstein, the legendary producer whose company is distributing Bully, has also vocally demanded.
The Orange County Film Society, which is brought to you by the same folks behind the Newport Beach Film Festival, is currently putting together a panel to speak after Bully screens. The advance showing is only for society members; no tickets will be sold.