The MPAA certainly gave the documentary Bully a hard time with its rating, but the Producers Guild of America is showing the anti-bullying documentary some love: It has awarded the film its Stanley Kramer Award, bestowed on a film which raises public awareness on an important issue. The film, which initially received an R rating until filmmakers cut a few cuss words to get the PG-13, is shortlisted for Best Documentary in the Oscar race. This comes months after The Weinstein Company‘s Harvey and Bob Weinstein were selected to receive the PGA’s Milestone Award, which will be presented at the same event January 26. Here is the PGA’s official announcement:
The Weinstein Company and the MPAA have come to terms on a PG-13 rating for Bully, the timely documentary that would have been hamstrung by an R rating for objectionable language. TWC released it without a rating, which didn’t help matters. The compromise is that the film is shy a few cuss words, but retains a chilling scene depicting bullies in action. And the brouhaha has given the film a ton of free publicity and attention that documentaries rarely receive.
A statement by MPAA ratings board chairman Joan Graves said this afternoon that The Weinstein Company resubmitted an edited version of Bully, and the board gave the new version a PG-13 “for intense thematic material, disturbing content, and some strong language – all involving kids.” Graves stated “the ratings system has worked exactly as it is supposed to” and emphasized the same process is available to all filmmakers. The MPAA has also granted The Weinstein Company a waiver eliminating the usual 90-day window required between the release of two differently-rated versions of the same movie, which allows TWC to release the PG-13 Bully now.
April 5, 2012 – New York, NY – The Weinstein Company (TWC), aided by the guidance and consultation from attorneys David Boies and Ted Olson, announced today that the MPAA has lowered the R rating, given for some language, for BULLY to a PG-13 in time for the film’s April 13th expansion to 55 markets. The scene that has been at the forefront of the battle with the MPAA, the intense scene in the film that shows teen Alex Libby being bullied and harassed on a bus, has been left fully intact and unedited. BULLY director Lee Hirsch felt editing the scene was not an option, and subsequently refused to do so, since it is too important to the truth and integrity behind the film.
A slate of documentaries are part of this weekend’s specialty offerings including The Weinstein Company’s high-profile Bully, which should garner some decent box office cha-ching based on publicity alone due to its fight to reverse an R rating from the MPAA. But before it was in the media spotlight, its filmmaker struggled to make the feature much like most indie directors. New Yorker Films is also utilizing school-yard teasing as one way to spread the word about its controversial Norwegian feature Turn Me On, Dammit! Samuel Goldwyn Films is hoping to replicate one of its past successes by keeping the focus on its main subject for its rollout The Island President. And filmmaker Alan Govenar happened upon a low-profile center of Beat culture in Paris, taking what was originally intended to be a short film about the topic and turned it into a full feature in The Beat Hotel.
Based on the reviews I’ve read of the documentary Bully, the MPAA’s decision to uphold an R rating that excludes the target audience seems one of the ratings board’s more absurd judgements. Releasing unrated is a gamble, and The Weinstein Co co-chairman Harvey Weinstein and his team tried to stack their odds by taking to Twitter, and the response was resounding. They’ve reached over 105 million followers from individual tweets and another 10 million from organizations. Among the celebs who’ve participated in tweeting the film are:
Do the movie studios which make up the MPAA realize that Chris Dodd is now part of non-member The Weinstein Company’s publicity machine? First there was Harvey Weinstein’s PR offense over the MPAA’s refusal to change the rating for The Weinstein Company documentary …
Bully director Lee Hirsch said today that the media frenzy over the MPAA giving his school-bullying film an R rating has helped the Weinstein Co documentary gain exposure and made the movie more important. “It’s given youth a sense of ownership over it and raised our profile,” Hirsch told Deadline today. It’s been another busy news cycle for the doc: A petition started by Michigan student Katy Butler featuring 200,000 signatures demanding the MPAA change its rating to PG-13 was delivered to the LA offices of the organization, which responded by defending its original decision to rate the film R on the basis of excessive foul language. “The R rating and description of ‘some language’ for Bully does not mean that children cannot see the film,” Classification and Rating Administration chair Joan Graves said. “As with any movie, parents will decide if they want their children to see Bully.”
Hirsch said the filmmakers had started their own petition, which received several thousand signatures, but were shocked by Butler’s much bigger success. “It really is a miracle and a dream come true,” the director said of Butler’s efforts. “It’s much bigger than the ratings battle. I can tell you straight up though, we couldn’t have dreamed this up.”
The fight over Bully continues, with the National Association of Theatre Owners now making its own threats. News came out last week that the MPAA upheld its R-rating for The Weinstein Company’s Tribeca 2011 doc about school bullying and since then the Weinstein Co has considered releasing the doc unrated and even to boycott the MPAA altogether, a move could have implications for its future releases. If TWC indeed goes ahead with releasing the film unrated, NATO said today in a letter to Weinstein boss Harvey Weinstein that it will urge members to consider the Lee Hirsch-directed film an NC-17 movie. In the letter (see below), NATO president and CEO John Fithian said he would “have no choice but to encourage my theater owner members to treat unrated movies from The Weinstein Company in the same manner as they treat unrated movies from anyone else. In most cases, that means enforcement as though the movies were rated NC-17 — where no one under the age of 18 can be admitted even with accompanying parents or guardians.”
UPDATE, 5:33 PM: The MPAA has issued this response from Joan Graves, chair of the association’s Classification and Rating Administration, which doles out movie ratings. Here it is:
“Bullying is a serious issue and is a subject that parents should discuss with their children. The MPAA agrees with the Weinstein Company that Bully can serve as a vehicle for such important discussions.
The MPAA also has the responsibility, however, 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. Once advised, many parents may take their kids to see an R-rated film. School districts, similarly, handle the determination of showing movies on a case-by-case basis and have their own guidelines for parental approval.”
Privately, an MPAA insider told Deadline’s Nikki Finke that Harvey Weinstein is threatening a “leave of absence” from the MPAA ratings system for “Pure publicity. He is not a member so he can’t take a leave. He might choose not to have his films rated, which is his right. It is up to theaters if they want to show unrated films. Some do. Others don’t.”
PREVIOUS, BREAKING… Harvey Weinstein today says his company is considering “a leave of absence from the MPAA for the foreseeable future”. It’s not a member of the movie studio lobbying and ratings group. But this follows the association upholding its R-rating on the indie distributor’s documentary Bully. The ruling puts a dent in Harvey Weinstein’s plan for the studio and filmmakers to show the film as a teaching tool in middle schools and high schools (a screening of the film is planned for tomorrow at LA’s Fairfax High). The ratings board originally gave the documentary about school bullying the rating based on language, and Weinstein personally attended the appeals hearing today; the board requires a two-thirds vote, and Weinstein says the Lee Hirsch-directed film fell one vote short of becoming PG-13.
The Weinstein Co won its appeal of the MPAA’s rating for Blue Valentine last year, but the distributor missed this one today. The filmmakers and Harvey Weinstein were looking for a PG-13 rating so they could show the documentary about bullying to middle …