As the world opened its eyes to the newest movie phenomenon, “Bully,” BBYO Pacific Coast Region (PCR) was on the frontlines of it all — at the Los Angeles premiere. About 20 BBYO teens plus dozens of L.A. residents came out to watch the touching film when it premiered April 1 at the Landmark Theater in West Los Angeles.
“Bully” is the moving documentary about several bullied teenagers in the United States. It features interviews with families of teenagers who took their own lives as a result of being bullied. High school students from Georgia, Iowa, Mississippi, Texas and Oklahoma are followed, along with their families, during the 2009-2010 school year. The film focuses on the suicides of Tyler Long and Ty Smalley.
The film explains how the average American kid has trouble defending himself or herself against physical and emotional trauma because of the longing to fit in and not be ostracized.
“This film is certainly a tearjerker,” said Ryan Daly, a senior at Mira Costa High School in Manhattan Beach, Calif. and regional president of PCR BBYO. “My heart goes out to all of the families who are shown in the film. I also want to find a way to fight back against bullying and this film is the perfect way for me to make a difference.”
After the movie, Kristen Irving, social-action campaign director of “Bully,” talked to the audience about the movie and its message. She gave advice to those who asked questions, saying, “There’s always a way to make it better.” She also talked about her experiences meeting the teens and the movie director. According to Irving, the movie’s message is “how to rise above bullying and how to not stand by and not take action against bullying.”
“I was bullied for a good part of my life and after seeing kids being bullied and no one doing anything to help them, I will no longer stand idly by; I am going to take some serious action,” said Daniel Bernstein, a junior at New Roads High School in Santa Monica, Calif. He pledged to stop any kind of bullying and not let words or actions put anyone down.
“I was really touched and I learned so much on how bullying really affects people,” said Anna Eyfer, a sophomore at Alexander Hamilton High School in Los Angeles.
BBYO prides itself on being a welcoming community. As a pluralistic Jewish youth movement, BBYO is known to welcome people from different Jewish backgrounds. Those who attended the premiere were touched by the inspiring true stories in “Bully.”
After the premiere I talked to my BBYO friends and got some of their reactions. Although not many of them had been bullied, they all shared stories of how they had witnessed the cruelty.
Max Adelstein is a junior at New Community Jewish High School in West Hills, Calif. and he is a wrestler. But even the strong athlete hasn’t escaped bullying. “I was bullied a lot for being fat, but I rose above it and it motivated me to lose 35 pounds,” he said.
Bullying has touched me deeply. When I was little I was always picked on and teased; I was bullied by my peers for being too “nerdy” and too “geeky.” In my middle school years, I was cyber-bullied about my Jewish culture by ignorant teens. I was fortunate enough to rise above the bullying, and my experiences taught me a lot about the world. Luckily I had BBYO to make me feel included and to help me out with my bullying. BBYO was my safe space that made me feel included and welcomed. Unfortunately, many others don't have the opportunity to experience the warm and welcoming environment that BBYO has provided for me.
I hope that everyone gets to see this movie and learn its inspiring message. The end to bullying starts with each individual. Old and young alike need to stop bullying and start teaching children about its negative effects. The message of “Bully” to rise above bullying and not standing idly by is one that will hopefully be passed on to all.
Even if you haven’t been a victim of bullying you should go and see this excellent and inspiring piece of cinema; you will leave the theater a better and more enlightened person.
To sign anti-bullying pledges and to get more information on BBYO’s work with “Bully” and BBYO’s Stand UP for Each Other Campaign, visit bbyo.org/bully.