The MPAA has reacted to The Weinstein Company's strong complaint over its decision to give an R rating to controversial documentary "Bully". In a statement released on Thursday, February 23, Joan Graves, chair of the association's Classification and Rating Administration, explained why the film should not be given a PG-13 rating.
"Bullying is a serious issue and is a subject that parents should discuss with their children," Graves said before acknowledging that " 'Bully' can serve as a vehicle for such important discussions." She, however, stressed that The MPAA "has the responsibility to acknowledge and represent the strong feedback from parents throughout the country who want to be informed about content in movies, including language."
"The rating and rating descriptor of 'some language,' indicate to parents that this movie contains certain language. With that, some parents may choose to take their kids to this movie and others may not, but it is their choice and not ours to make for them. The R rating is not a judgment on the value of any movie. The rating simply conveys to parents that a film has elements strong enough to require careful consideration before allowing their children to view it."
Earlier, Harvey Weinstein, the co-chairman of The Weinstein Co., has threatened to take "a leave of absence from the MPAA for the foreseeable future" after the company lost an appeal to secure a PG-13 rating for "Bully". In a released statement, he explained, "We respect the MPAA and their process but feel this time it has just been a bridge too far."
"I have been through many of these appeals, but this one vote loss is a huge blow to me personally," he continued. "Alex Libby [one of the bullied children in the documentary] gave an impassioned plea and eloquently defended the need for kids to be able to see this movie on their own, not with their parents, because that is the only way to truly make a change."
The film producer went on stating, "With school-age children of my own, I know this is a crucial issue and school districts across the U.S. have responded in kind. The Cincinnati school district signed on to bus 40,000 of their students to the movie, but because the appeals board retained the R rating, the school district will have to cancel those plans."
"I personally am going to ask celebrities and personalities worldwide, from Lady GaGa (who has a foundation of her own) to the Duchess of Cambridge (who was a victim of bullying and donated wedding proceeds) to First Lady Michelle Obama (whose foundation has reached out to us as well), to take a stand with me in eradicating bullying and getting the youth into see this movie without restriction."
"Bully" will not open in the U.S. theaters until March 30, but it will be screened on Friday morning, February 24 at Fairfax High School in Los Angeles for some 150 students. Of the dispute, the film's director Lee Hirsch said, "Tomorrow's screening means even more to me in the wake of the decision by the MPAA. To say that I am disappointed and distressed would be a grave understatement."
"It is my great hope that 'Bully' reaches the audience for whom it was made: kids, the bullied and the bullies and the 80% of kids who can make the most impact by becoming upstanders rather than bystanders," the filmmaker added.
The controversial documentary follows five families over the course of one year to reveal how their children are affected by bullying. The film includes shocking footage that reveals not only the bullying itself but the harrowing repercussions it wreaks on its victims.