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bullyFilmmaker Lee Hirsch may have won Emmy’s and awards at Sundance, and he certainly picked a timely documentary to present to us. Certainly his heart is in the right place. The problem is he gave us a very unfocused and incomplete documentary on bullying.

Five kids and their families are followed over the course of a school year. They’re in Mississippi, Oklahoma, and Georgia (I can’t remember the other two places, or if a few were from the same states).

We hear about a few who have committed suicide, and our heart breaks watching the parents discuss the situations. There’s an interesting story involving a 14-year-old girl that is so tired of being picked on, she brings a gun to school (and I was surprised we actually see footage of her whipping it out on the bus).

There’s an amazing scene that will have everyone in the audience screaming at the screen. It’s an idiotic Vice Principal that shows a lack of sympathy (and common sense), when parents are discussing the problem their kid is having on the bus. If she isn’t fired after this movie comes out, there is no justice in the world.

I would’ve preferred seeing a more diverse group of kids. Something about hearing all the southern accents, and listening to a man talk about the suicide of his child while a bunch of dead animal heads are on the walls behind him – just seemed a bit bizarre.

The movie tells us 13 million kids will be bullied in the U.S. this year. Well, show us more of them.

And how about having some famous people commenting about bullying they’ve dealt with? I would love to hear about a boxer that was picked on, or somebody like Henry Rollins (punk singer from Black Flag), who was bullied but ended up becoming a muscular dude that wrote pieces on the topic.

What about showing us the bullies in more detail? Interview them, or show their home life. Give us a glimpse into what created these monsters; or surprise us by showing the few that probably had great parents, and that they were just bullies for no real reason. Maybe a few bullies are just insecure about their own pecking order, and being a bully gets everyone to focus on the kid they’re picking on.

There also seems to be a lack of solutions in this.

Now, the whole controversy with the ratings board that the Weinstein group complained about was probably BS. They went on about how important the movie was and it shouldn’t be rated R (it was finally brought down to PG13). If there were a few two many F-words, it would’ve been really easy to just bleep them out. The point would’ve still come across (although it is ridiculous that language can give a movie an R rating, the same way The Kings Speech should’ve been a PG a few years back).

The movie had some very powerful scenes. One involved a town hall meeting where a kid gets up to talk about problems and starts to break down.

There was another with kids being forced to shake hands. It’s the kid being bullied that refuses, leaving the clueless teacher to think he’s the problem when it’s the other way around. His explanation to her as to why he didn’t extend his hand was so well stated, you wonder how it is she still didn’t have a clue.

You’ll need tissues, because this is a sad and depressing film to watch. I remember losing it when the balloons were released with various names of the kids that committed suicide.

I left the screening talking with fellow critic Scott Marks about bullies. We both had similar experiences with our sense of humor getting us out of fixes, but when I mentioned Terry Snabia tormenting everybody at my elementary school he said “You never forget their first and last name.”

Somebody I’ve never forgotten is Michael Timmons. I remember in 2nd grade when we were playing 4-Square, he’d just be standing by himself against a wall. He was tall, heavy, and possibly albino. He had thick glasses, and I had heard people calling him “four eyes.” I didn’t know what that meant, and just assumed it was his name. When we needed another person for 4-Square, I figured he’d be perfect. He wasn’t doing anything. I said “Hey Four Eyes, we need one. Wanna play?”

God bless Mrs. Sylvester, my wonderful teacher. She was tall, blonde, and we all had crushes on her. She grabbed me, pinned me against the wall, and got within an inch of my face and screamed “You will go back over to him and apologize!”

I had no clue what it was I was apologizing for. I thought I was saying his name. It didn’t occur to me that wasn’t his name since my last name was “Board,” I figured sometimes words are names. I went home and asked my parents, and they explained what had happened. Of course, I was too shy to offer a real apology the following day.

In 8th grade, we heard he died. We were told he slipped and fell in the shower. It was another bully who I overheard saying in the locker room “Yeah, well…my mom knows his mom. The real story is that he hung himself in the bathroom.”

That was later confirmed by a few other sources, and I was devastated. I wondered how many other people had called him “four eyes” or worse names. I thought about his parents and what they must have went through. I wondered how you even figure out how to tie a noose (this was before the days of Googling everything).

I thought about how much I was enjoying 8th grade, playing on the school basketball team, dating Nicole Dirnberger, and having lots of friends.

Not a single day goes by that I don’t think of Michael Timmons, and I hardly knew him.

We need to really do something about bullying. And although this movie wasn’t a great documentary – if it brings more awareness to the bullying that has gotten much worse over the years (with texting, Facebook, and everything else)…that’s a good thing. I’d recommend the previous movie Bully or My Bodyguard over this, though.

I can only give it 2 stars out of 5.

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