Will there ultimately be a compromise reached regarding “Bully,” the Weinstein Co. documentary that has rallied everyone from regular teens to Johnny Depp to protest its R rating?
As previously noted by BlogPost, Lee Hirsch, the film’s director, is in Washington today to screen the film for local educators at, of all places, the offices of the Motion Picture Association of America. That’s the same organization that Hirsch and company have been at odds with over that R rating, one given to the film because it contains several uses of the f-word.
I caught up with Hirsch earlier today and asked him whether there was any chance he would consider bleeping out one or two of those expletives if that guaranteed a PG-13 designation for the movie, thereby allowing teen audiences to see it without the accompaniment of an adult.
“I would do anything to make a difference for kids that are bullied in this country and everywhere,” he said after a pause. “I actually think that the language is what makes this film powerful because it’s what makes the bullying real. And it’s something that I am standing strong on because I think, a. I think we’re right. I don’t think we’re wrong. And Kelby [one of the bullied teens in the movie, who also was present during the interview] and others have asked us to fight. If you take that away, it’s one more notch against that experience. It’s one more big societal minimizing, or sort of, negating, of the full extent of terror that comes with bullying.”
This week, Hollywood stars such as Depp and Meryl Streep added their voices to the chorus of support for this look at the impact of bullying on five American families. (In two of the cases, a child committed suicide.) The controversy over the MPAA’s rating, which was upheld on appeal, has shined a light on the often frustrating guidelines that dictate how movies are rated in this country. And, admittedly, it’s also generated a lot of publicity for “Bully,” something that Harvey Weinstein, co-chairman of The Weinstein Company, is particularly masterful at doing.
I asked Hirsch how he would respond to those who suggest the ratings controversy has been magnified for promotion reasons.
“I would say that under other circumstances, I could understand their cynicism,” he said. “For me, the cynicism is at the lowest level you could imagine compared to the positive good will ... look, nothing can be more powerful than when somebody out of the blue — a young 17-year-old girl who’s been bullied — starts a petition and it takes off like wildfire.”
Hirsch was referring to Katy Butler, the Michigan high-schooler who started an online petition to get the rating changed, and reportedly will attend tonight’s screening as well.
MPAA officials have said that “Bully’s” appeals process has been exhausted and that, without tweaks to the film’s content, nothing will change. But with Christopher Dodd, chairman of the MPAA, hosting tonight’s screening, Hirsch remains hopeful that both sides can reach some middle ground.
“I think we’re going to learn more today,” he said.
“I think anything’s movable,” he added. “The MPAA has to be movable.”