By Jill Tucker | SF Chronicle
Documentary film director Lee Hirsch huddled in the darkness of San
Francisco’s Herbst Theatre as hundreds of city middle and high school
students watched his movie, “Bully,” Thursday morning.
As students alternately applauded, cheered and sniffled through tears
as the film documented the devastating impact of bullying, Hirsch
recorded the audience sounds on his phone, his face beaming.
“This is a film for the underdogs and boy are there are a lot of them,” Hirsch said.
About 2,800 city students were bused to see the film at four local
movie theaters, a movie initially rated R because of language. The film
also addresses the suicide of two children, including an 11-year-old boy
who was bullied.
Marina Middle School eighth grader Pooja Singh, 13, cried during the
movie as she watched a student tormented on a school bus as other
children watched without helping.
“I felt like it was really inspirational,” she said after the credits
rolled. “I feel like at our school we can work together and stop it.”
The film is being shown at schools across the country and inspiring
thousands of students to form clubs or hold rallies to battle bullying.
The issue will also be highlighted at a Friday conference on bullying
in San Francisco with Bay Area education and law enforcement officials
as well as federal civil rights staff from the U.S. Department of
In San Francisco, Superintendent Richard Carranza required all
administrators, principals and assistant principals to see the film
before the school year started.
On Thursday, he encouraged the hundreds of students in the Herbst
Theatre to tell an adult if they are being bullied or see someone
bullied — a teacher, librarian, custodian, teacher aide, counselor,
parent or principal.
And since the film highlighted adults elsewhere who failed to help
the bullied children, Carranza gave the students one more option.
“If nothing gets done, you email me, you call my office and we’ll get something done,” he said to loud applause.
For those who want to take him up on that, he’s at email@example.com or 415-241-6121.