LOS ANGELES (CBS) — The schoolyard bully has long been a fixture in the American psyche, but now a controversial new documentary is grabbing headlines for its raw look at a very familiar subject.
An estimated 13 million children will be bullied this year in the U.S., a figure that Lee Hirsch, director of the film “Bully”, told KNX 1070 should not come as a shock to anyone who has ever been on a playground.
“Damage is being done, it’s happening in every community in the country, wealthy, poor, black, white, rural, urban,” said Hirsch. ”
The film gives viewers an up-close and brutally honest view of how bullying impacts several American families and their children over the course of a school year.
Hirsch said filming the documentary was cathartic for him personally.
“I remember walking the gauntlet of a gang of boys that were constantly hiding out for me, I couldn’t figure out a way home without getting beat up,” he recalled.
The film was recently given an R rating by the Motion Picture Association of America, a move that has sparked calls of censorship and even led 17-year-old Michigan student Katy Butler to deliver a 400,000-signature petition demanding the MPAA change the rating to PG-13.
Hirsh has since called the Hollywood ratings system “broken” and believes the move might exclude those families who most need to see the film.
“We’re trying to say that the whole range of experience can make someone bullied and therefore you’re all part of this movement,” Hirsch said. “We’re not catering to any one specific group.”
The documentary opens in Los Angeles on March 30.