The Weinstein Company is appealing the US R rating assigned to filmmaker Lee Hirsch's documentary Bully , a frank look at America's bullying crisis in schools.
Co-chairman Harvey Weinstein will personally appear at the Feb. 23 appeals
hearing at MPAA' s Classification and Rating Administration (CARA). He maintains that the R rating, assigned for some strong language, will keep Bully out of middle schools and high schools, the very locale where it needs to be seen the most.
Director Leo Hirsch said:
I made Bully for kids to see -- the bullies as well as the bullied. We have to change hearts and minds in order to stop this epidemic, which has scarred countless lives and driven many
children to suicide. To capture the stark reality of bullying, we had to capture the way kids act and speak in their everyday lives -- and the fact is that kids use profanity.
It is heartbreaking that the MPAA, in adhering to a
strict limit on certain words, would end up keeping this film from those who need to see it most.
Update: The Weinstein Co threatens to leave the MPAA over the R Rating for Bully
The Weinstein Co. is so shocked and upset that the MPAA upheld the R rating of its documentary Bully , it is considering taking a leave of absence from the association.
The company had asked MPAA's Classification and Ratings Appeals Board
to rate the movie PG-13. The board's tally was one vote short of the number needed to change the rating.
After learning of the board's decision, Weinstein Company co-chair Harvey Weinstein said in a statement that The Weinstein Company is
considering a leave of absence from the MPAA for the foreseeable future. We respect the MPAA and their process but feel this time it has just been a bridge too far.
Weinstein Company thwarted in its quest to get Bully exhibited for the teen market
1st March 2012. From press release from the Weinstein Company From kansascity.com
The Weinstein Company was not well pleased by the MPAA R Rating for the film Bully (aka The Bully Project ) for the amount of strong language.
After the failed appeal against the rating, the Weinstein co initially threatened to pull
out of the MPAA and then suggested that they would release the film unrated.
These suggestions seem to have wound up the theatre owners and others in the industry leading to a press release from the Weinstein Co stating their position:
National Association of Theatre Owners (NATO) President & CEO John Fithian sent Harvey Weinstein a letter dated February 24 on behalf of NATO stating that they may urge theater owners to treat BULLY as an NC-17 rated
film. With an NC-17 rating, children under the age of 18 will not be permitted to see the movie even with a parent or guardian present. The NC-17 threat comes in response to The Weinstein Company's (TWC) suggestion to release BULLY, which has the sole
purpose of educating children and highlighting how bullying has become a national crisis, in theaters unrated after the MPAA failed to lower the R rating given for some language.
As a company we have the utmost respect for the
National Association of Theatre Owners, but to suggest that the film BULLY could ever be treated like an NC-17 film is completely unconscionable, not to mention unreasonable. In light of the tragedy that occurred yesterday in Ohio, we feel now is the
time for the bullying epidemic to take center stage, we need to demand our community takes action.
It seems that all the fuss about the R Rating of the Bully is down to just 6 expletives.
John Fithian, president of the National Association of Theatre Owners, wrote to Harvey Weinstein, explaining that 'rules is rules' and that it
would not be a good idea for Weinstein to try and release the movies unrated:
Grateful As a father of a 9-year-old child, I am personally grateful that (the Weinstein Co.) has addressed the important issue of bullying
in such a powerful documentary. Yet were the MPAA and NATO to waive the ratings rules whenever we believed that a particular movie had merit, or was somehow more important than other movies, we would no longer be neutral parties applying consistent
standards, but rather censors of content based on personal mores.
That leaves the makers of Bully with the question of whether to edit or bleep the expletives, which are part of the antagonistic behavior documented between kids
in the film. Right now, director Lee Hirsch is declining to do that, and has the backing of Weinstein. The director says such editing would minimize the harsh realities of bullying.
To cut around it or bleep it out, it really absolutely does
lessen the impact and takes away from what the honest moment was, and what a terrifying feeling it can be (to be bullied), says Hirsch: I feel a responsibility as a filmmaker, as the person entrusted to tell (these kids') stories, to not water
Bully has been rated PG by British Columbia film censors. Parental guidance is advised for the documentary in the western Canadian province, and the film comes with a warning of coarse language; theme of bullying.
Hirsch, who has been campaigning against the restrictive R Rating awarded by the US film censor, said:
Last night, I learned of the B.C. board's decision to grant Bully a PG-rating. I am thrilled that kids of all ages
can now join their parents, teachers, social work advocates and leaders to bring about change for this deeply important cause.
Meanwhile in the US a petition with 200,000 Signatures will be delivered to the MPAA calling for a PG-13
Update: Nutters praise the censors but seem a bit confused about public opinion
Conservative Alberta became the second Canadian province to give the Lee Hirsch documentary about an epidemic of U.S. school bullying a PG-rating. The Alberta censors included a parental guidance warning, indicating themes or content in Bully may not
be suitable for all children.
Meanwhile, the advocacy tools website Change.org has announced that 20 members of the US Congress have signed on to a petition asking the MPAA to lower the R rating it gave to director Lee Hirsch's documentary Bully
The bipartisan group, led by Representative Mike Honda wrote:
We are writing to express our sincere disappointment in the MPAA's decision to issue an 'R' rating for the soon-to-be-released documentary
Bully. This important project shows the real life anguish of many teenagers in this country who are tormented, harassed, and bullied by their peers. This truth should be shared with as wide an audience as is appropriate and possible. We believe an
R-rating excludes the very audience for whom this film is desperately important.
started by high school student Katy Butler, has garnered over 275,000 signatures, helped by public support from Ellen Degeneres and New Orleans Saints quarterback Drew Brees.
Lawmakers, parents' advocates, filmmakers and teenagers are complaining that language and sex are scrutinized while violence gets a pass ( Bully received an R because it contains scenes of teens hurling profanities). Critics also say that the
system of five alpha and alphanumeric characters are blunt tools rather than nuanced instruments and that the overall process is too secretive and rigid.
Michigan Representative Hansen Clarke said:
is that the very movies that contribute to violence can be seen by teenagers because they get a PG-13, [referring to The Hunger Games]. And the one film ('Bully') that actually teaches them to respect others is given an R.
public policy director of the nutter group, Parents Television Council, agrees a rethinking is necessary. Like Clarke, he believes movies such as The Hunger Games - and a lot of other films that are approved for teen viewing - merit R ratings:
Certain movies will never get an R no matter what's in them. That's the problem when the ones policing the system have an economic incentive to give films a certain rating.
Yet some legislators, such as
California's Representative Linda T. Sanchez, say the rating panels are thinking too narrowly by counting swear words and body parts while ignoring the larger context. It seems like the MPAA missed an opportunity here, she said of Bully, arguing that raters should have taken into account the movie's message.
The MPAA says that making its system more flexible would require raters who can offer value judgments. And that, the group's chief, former U.S. Sen. Christopher J. Dodd of Connecticut, says, takes it into a messy thicket. Who am I going to hire
to do that? Writers? Critics? Dodd said in his office last week as the Bully controversy was building. That's not a business we want to be in.
Bully , a new documentary premiering Friday, will be released with no rating, following a failed effort to have the MPAA rating changed from R to PG-13.
The movie's rating attracted national attention, thanks to a Change.org petition
started by 17-year-old Katy Butler. The petition MPAA: Don't let the bullies win! Give 'Bully' a PG-13 instead of an R rating! has almost achieved its goal of gaining half a million signatures.
The film's no rating status will prevent it
from being screened in certain theaters, which is a risk The Weinstein Co. decided to take.
Update: Nutters of the Parents TV Council Unimpressed
The Parents Television Council responded to
the announcement that the Weinstein Company will release the documentary Bully unrated by calling on all major theaters, including AMC, to adhere to their own policies not to exhibit unrated films. PTC warns that showing unrated content is a
threat to the continued viability of the ratings system. PTC President Tim Winter said:
This move, regardless of intentions, sets a precedent that threatens to derail the entire ratings system. If a distribution
company can simply decide to operate outside of the ratings system in a case like 'Bully,' nothing would prevent future filmmakers from doing precisely the same thing, with potentially much more problematic material.
unfortunate that the serious problem of schoolyard and online bullying is being overshadowed by a misguided and manufactured controversy over the MPAA rating. It's even more unfortunate that the MPAA ratings system, which only exists as a tool to help
parents make informed viewing decisions for their own families, is being deliberately undermined by Weinstein and his colleagues in the entertainment industry, and that their efforts may well spell the demise of a system that has benefited parents and
families for over forty years.
Either ratings mean something, or they don't. The MPAA's job is not to make subjective judgments about the merit of a film or the importance of the film's message. The MPAA's sole task is to take an
objective measure of the adult content in a film, and apply the appropriate rating. Though the MPAA's system is not perfect, it has been remarkably consistent at least in this regard: any more than a single 'sexual expletive' (usually the 'F-word') will
lead to an R-rating. 'Bully' employs multiple uses of this 'sexual expletive,' and that is why it was given an R-rating.
The distributor of the documentary Bully , which is hitting theaters this weekend unrated, is now considering making cuts to secure a PG-13 rating, sources told the Los Angeles Times.
Two Weinstein Company sources, who requested anonymity,
said the PG-13 version of Bully would cut profanity from a controversial scene, in which a student is threatened on a school bus.
The edited version would be available to theaters when Bully opens in wider release on April 13, the sources said. It
opened Friday in limited release in New York and Los Angeles.
In most cases, the MPAA does not allow differently rated versions of the same film to be in release at the same time, requiring a 90-day "withdrawal period" between releases.
But it can make exceptions.
Stephen Bruno, head of marketing for The Weinstein Company, has denied that the company planned to edit Bully, telling the Los Angeles Times:
At this time, there are no plans to
change the film for a PG-13. We are in constant conversation with the MPAA and hope a compromise can be reached.
Meanwhile the nutters of the Parents Television Council is calling on all major theaters, including AMC, to adhere to
their own policies not to exhibit unrated films. PTC President Tim Winter claimed:
This move, regardless of intentions, sets a precedent that threatens to derail the entire ratings system. If a distribution company can
simply decide to operate outside of the ratings system in a case like 'Bully,' nothing would prevent future filmmakers from doing precisely the same thing, with potentially much more problematic material.
The Weinstein Company has announced that it had reached an agreement with the MPAA to cut its unrated documentary Bully for a PG-13 rating. The movie will now go out with that rating when it opens in about 115 new theaters next weekend.
new cut of the Lee Hirsch film makes some concessions to the MPAA: It removes a 'fuck' in an early scene in the film, along with two others quickly uttered. Audio will be dropped out in all three instances.
But the new cut leaves intact a
controversial scene on a school bus in which three 'fucks' are used against a bullied child.
The case now represents an exception to the MPAA's rules; the group typically imposes an R rating on any film with more than two 'fucks'.
unexpurgated version of the movie will remain for the current restricted release, with the PG-13 print replacing all versions when the movie widens April 13.