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A documentary on peer-to-peer bullying in schools across America.
For more about Bully and the Bully Blu-ray release, see Bully Blu-ray Review published by Martin Liebman on January 30, 2013 where this Blu-ray release scored 3.5 out of 5.
Director: Lee Hirsch
» See full cast & crew
Bully Blu-ray Review
A very good Documentary with no real answers to the problem it highlights.
Reviewed by Martin Liebman, January 30, 2013
Any time someone comes around that's the least bit different, they make sure to put them down.
Is there anyone who hasn't been the victim of bullying to some degree? Has anyone ever not been pushed and shoved in the hallway, called derogatory names, punched in the arm, had their lunch money taken by force, been threatened with death, or fallen victim to any other number of bullying tactics that are employed not because the victim's asking for them, but because people are just flat-out hateful? Where does this behavior come from? Is it learned on the streets? Do bullying victims take their own frustrations out on others and perpetuate the cycle? Is bullying a product of the collapse of the classic home? The influence on the street? The images on television? The lyrics in music? The echoes in the school building hallway? Or is bullying just an innate part of youthful nature? And is justifiable retaliation a form of "bullying" in and of itself? Is the victim kicking the aggressor between the legs a bad thing? Was this child justified in fighting back?
Director Lee Hirsch's (himself a victim of bullying) Bully doesn't really answer these questions, because they are, frankly, questions with arguably no answer or, on the other end of the argument, a product of "all of the above" and then some. The truth is the world is a pretty lousy place, that mankind is inherently flawed, and that bullying is probably here to stay, one way or another (shoot, even the logical, "evolved," and emotionless Vulcan children in Star Trek bullied a young Spock. That's fiction, yes, but the point is that probably no degree of "utopia" will ever completely solve the problem). But Bully aims to bring to light the serious problem that is bullying, to make it a subject on which parents, children, and school officials may openly communicate, to elevate it above the status of "taboo" and, just maybe, show the true, dire, behind-the-scenes consequences of bullying and open up the deep personal effect it has on individuals, families, and communities to the entire world.
Bully takes a look at five people who have suffered from, or are currently suffering under, bullies. Ty Field-Smalley, from Perkins, Oklahoma, took his own life at age eleven. He was a good kid, a Cardinals fan, and a very good friend. He and his buddy had a secret spot in the woods and enjoyed hunting rabbits. Despite a loving family and an unbreakable, powerful friendship, the burden proved too severe for young Ty who left behind family and friends who would give anything to have done even more. Tyler, of Murray County, Georgia, was a happy young child but, as he grew, became more isolated, more quiet, someone who didn't enjoy large crowds, and was always the last person picked for pick-up athletic events. He was frequently bullied and was even once told to kill himself, to put an end to his "worthless" life. He did just that. Tyler hung himself in his closet and was later discovered by his own parents. His family has repainted his bedroom and repurposed it into a "headquarters" for their anti-bullying campaign, "Keeping Tyler's Voice Alive."
Alex, a Sioux City, Iowa resident, was born prematurely. He was given 24 hours to survive; he has outlived those predictions by about 13 years. But now Alex faces another hurdle: bullies. He's about to go back to school. He likes to learn, but he does have trouble making friends and that leads to bullying. He's called "fish face;" he's poked, prodded, slapped, and demeaned on the bus and on the playground; and he insists to his parents that he thinks the bullies are just "messing around." Kelby isn't welcome in all that many places. Kelby lives in the "Bible Belt" of Oklahoma, and she's a lesbian. She loves basketball -- and she's so talented she believes she could have gotten a scholarship to play in college -- but is so ridiculed in school that she cannot join the team. She has a good circle of friends, but they, too, are bullied for even associating with Kelby. She's tried to commit suicide three times. Ja'meya also loves basketball and is an honors student. She's also been in juvenile detention. The Yazoo County, Mississippi, resident one day fought back against bullies. She took her mother's handgun onto the bus and confronted them. No shots were fired, and nobody was injured. Now, she's charged with over twenty counts each of kidnapping and aggravated assault, just for standing up for herself and turning the tables on her tormentors.
Chances are Bully will have drawn tears within five minutes. It opens powerfully with a worst-case scenario conclusion to one child's life with the frustration, the pain, and the fear of bullies. The film takes viewers inside homes, classrooms, busses, and the hangouts where bullying is a very real problem in the physical and the emotional states, where pain lingers inside and out even in the safety of the home environment and surrounded by loving and concerned parents, family, and friends. Viewers are shown clips of parent-principal conferences, school board meetings, and rallies all aimed at bully prevention. But the results are startling: there never seems to be any real solution to the bullying problems. Whispers of "boys will be boys" and "that's what kids do" haunt every scene. Cameras capture bullying in progress; it's a wonder people can, will, and do behave so poorly in front of the camera, but it's not just Bully; take a look through YouTube and witness how even the promise of instant and eternal evidence cannot even keep bullies from harming others anymore; "big brother" isn't the answer and nobody can legislate bad behavior out of existence. The film is more sobering than it is uplifting; it doesn't find an immediate answer but it does champion speaking out, standing up, and being counted in the fight against bullies.
Bully Blu-ray, Video Quality
Bully features a fair HD video presentation. Much of the image is satisfactorily sharp and clear, revealing good, clean, accurate lines and details on faces, cinderblock walls in the schools, classroom decorations, and the textures of bus seat coverings. Colors are fairly vibrant and natural, from various clothes to yellow buses. Black levels are fine, and flesh tones natural. The image does wash out a bit in very bright outdoor scenes. The source also occasionally reveals some aliasing, a few jagged edges, and some false colors throughout. Regardless of the transfer's strengths and weaknesses, this isn't the sort of film one watches for Blu-ray eye candy. It looks just fine given the content and filmmaking styles. The problem areas aren't egregious and they do not interfere with the narrative flow.
Bully Blu-ray, Audio Quality
Bully features a DTS-HD Master Audio 5.1 lossless soundtrack that's designed to convey basic information and dialogue, not dazzle listeners. Still, there's good spacing to the track and fine clarity to music. Light surround elements are present in a handful of scenes. Children play in the back, a good reverberation in a gymnasium helps set that stage, and the rattling and rumbling of a moving bus helps to define that particular environment. Dialogue is clear and presented evenly and consistently from the center channel speaker. That's pretty much all there is to this one; it handles its basic elements well enough and will get listeners through the film with no difficulty.
Bully Blu-ray, Special Features and Extras
Bully contains a large assortment of relatively short extras. A DVD copy of the film is also included.
Bully Blu-ray, Overall Score and Recommendation
Bully is more of a "see what's happening" sort of movie meant to bring greater attention to and focus on bullying. Its stories are sad and its solutions are few, but its victims are very much likable people; it's too bad their peers cannot see that. No matter how many tears, how many bruises, how many suicides, bullying seems like a fact of life that isn't about to go away any time soon. The film never really champions the oldest solution in the book -- good old-fashioned "eye for an eye" retaliation -- which might not find much favor in the world as it is right now, but chances are that Australian kid from the YouTube video linked above doesn't have much of a problem with bullying anymore. That said, there's also a place for dialogue and for promoting anti-bullying campaigns, but it's disappointing to see Alex's parents "politicked," as they say, by the assistant principal, to see the silent shrugs of "nothing can be done" that quietly linger throughout the film. This is an important topic that's addressed in a captivating film. It's too bad the film is more the fire alarm and less the water hose. Anchor Bay's Blu-ray release of Bully features adequate video and audio along with a long list of extra content. Recommended.
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Bully Blu-ray, News and Updates
• Bully Blu-ray - November 13, 2012
Anchor Bay Home Entertainment will distribute The Weinstein Company's controversial documentary Bully a.k.a The Bully Project (2011). Directed by Lee Hirsch, the film won Award for Films of Conflict and Resolution at the Hamptons International Film Festival. The ...
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