Directed by: Lee Hirsch
Much has been made of the bullying situation is modern schools and rightfully so. Kids being bullying is nothing new but in this modern age the levels have risen to dangerous levels and the potential repercussions of such bullying are much more extreme now than they’ve ever been too. The subject has been broached many times already but this film may be the most controversial of them all.
The documentary follows several kids that are constantly dealing with being bullied. Through interviews with them and their friends and family we learn of their plight and everything they’ve already been through trying to get the bullying stopped. The thing that got this film so much attention during its theatrical run is that there is a great deal of uncut footage of one particular child being brutally bullied both in front of and on the school bus. There were cameras on the buses installed by the school but the filmmakers also placed cameras in the back of the bus to observe the bullying as it happened. In this era of reality television we and our kids seem to get accustomed to being filmed by cameras really quickly plus modern doeumentary filmmakers are utilizing digital cameras that are barely larger than those used by families making home movies.
As the filmmakers expected the bullies did get used to being filmed and they began abusing one young boy in particular. The scenes are fairly challenging to watch. They raise questions of exploitation versus education and when does a filmmaker become involved in what’s happening in front of the camera. There’s no right answer. Some viewers will vilify the filmmakers for not stepping in and stopping the abuse, and they’d be correct in their feelings. Others will say by recording the events on video the message of just how important an issue bullying has become is hammered home; they’re correct in their feelings too. The only question I’d have here is do we really want to martyr a child for the cause? This poor kid was left to endure the abuse in order to bring awareness. It would be a lot easier if an adult were the victim here.
IN the end the film garnered all of its attention for the bullying scenes and it even got a PG-13 rating in its uncut version but the quality of the actual filmmaking was left in the shadows. The subject did become a discussion point in the media again so in that respect the film was a success. Overall though the film is somewhat scattershot in its following of the chosen “characters” and the general assembly of the film just felt like it needed another pass in the editing room. The message became central instead of making a great film and then the project becomes more of an ad for stopping bullying rather than a film about the subject. Bully isn’t a terrible film; it’s just not as good as it should have been.
The film was shot with minimal lighting and digital cameras closer to consumer quality than theatrical quality so the colors are washed out and some scenes are a bit on the grainy side. This is of course all acceptable because the film is a documentary and not a big budget narrative film. The transfer doesn’t appear to have any major issues as far as compression artifacts or edge enhancement. The movie pretty much looks as it did in the theater.
Like the video the audio presentation here is basic: taking a backseat to the story being told. The important part of this film aurally is to be able to properly hear the subjects both in day to day activity and in interviews. For the most part this aspect of the audio is fine and when it’s not there are subtitles.
The Packaging and Bonus Features
The blu-ray comes packaged in a standard amaray case with aggressive and affective cover art. As far as bonus features there’s some follow up with one of the children that are interesting and some deleted scenes that should have been deleted. Everything else in the bonus features is just ads for the group trying to fight bullying. Again this is focused on the fight and not the film, weak overall. There is a cut version of the film for a younger crowd and that’s probably a good idea.
Bully is a movie definitely worth seeing especially if you have children but it probably isn’t the best coverage of the subject we’ll see. This blu-ray needed more making of and behind the scenes features along with all of the commercials for the foundation fighting bullying.
Overall (Not an Average) 6.5/10
The Movie 7/10
The Video 7/10
The Audio 6/10
Tha Packaging and Bonus Features 3/10
Overall (Not an average) 6.5/10