As an educator and creator of my school's "Silence the Violence" program, I had high expectations for this movie. I anticipated its debut so much that I signed the petition created to rate this movie PG-13 instead of R so that students would be able to experience the film.
I left the movie theater very disappointed. I was expecting an emotional roller coaster complete with thorough interviews with bullies, bullying victims, families, teachers, and administrators. I was expecting to leave in tears due to heart-wrenching stories with an effective message that made me relive my own experiences being bullied as a kid.
However, I left feeling offended as an educator because every educator and administrator (bus drivers, too) in the movie seemed careless and helpless. The film followed the story of five students in the middle of the country and southern states living a very different lifestyle from students in the school I teach at; New Yorkers will have a very hard time relating to this film, and students might even dismiss it because their lifestyles are so far detached from what has been captured on film. The families of the bullied students don't seem to give their children hope... give them alternative programs, advice, making new friend exercises, extracurricular activities, workshops, counseling, ANYTHING. The families show their disdain for bullies and disappointment, but where is the courage? Where is the desire to make a change and show these kids the pathway to success?
The principal followed in the movie is harsh and heartless; she continues to make the argument that "bullying is normal" and it can't be avoided on the bus or in the building. This is the ONLY administrator followed in the film and it does NOT accurately depict all of the educators that are trying to make a difference here in the United States! Why couldn't we interview some urban or suburban families and educators? Of course then we're opening up the doors to gang violence and other urban area issues, but there is no reason they should have been overlooked in a documentary that had every opportunity to include this type of awakening for viewers.
Where is the advice in this movie? The movie pinpoints bullies and shows real footage of kids being bullied. However, there is no follow-up. Parents don't tell kids what to do. Kids don't talk about their feelings. Teachers and administrators don't offer solutions or help. The movie doesn't even end with a list of resourceful websites, tips, or places to go for preventing and ending bullying. How about a simple list of scrolling tips at the end of the movie? That would be low-budget enough to fit in with the rest of the film and it would at least give us SOME light at the end of the tunnel, and point viewers in some direction. I left the theater feeling unsettled, unsatisfied, and unmoved. I would even say I felt uninspired because I was so disappointed that so many major issues had not been touched upon, and there was truly no emotional effect on any audience members. Everyone left the theater and continued their usual side conversations... there's something wrong with a documentary if viewers don't want to investigate it further after they leave the theater!
Overall, this might be a good documentary for high school students and parents who live in rural areas since they might relate to it the best. City dwellers, educators, and administrators will probably leave the theater feeling cheated and frustrated if they had expectations anywhere near the ones I had for this film. Hopefully, more films of this nature will continue to work towards ending bullying in our schools. In the meantime, here's some real inspiration on bullying in schools (also bullying that leads to crimes and violence):
+ When bullying turns to hate crimes - Nassau County Police Department Hate Crimes Video
+"Don't Laugh at Me" book and song
+ A Cyber Bullying Suicide Story: Ryan Patrick Halligan
+ Rachel's Challenge
+ The Laramie Project