Our host, Stefanie Alleyne, meets up with today’s panelists, Deborah Kirschner, a screenwriter and filmmaker; Amanda Adams-Louis, a photographer and teaching artist; and Helene Abrams, a filmmaker, actress and educator, at Forty Weight Cafe, a co-op coffee shop and restaurant located in Park Slope, Brooklyn to review the heartfelt and critically acclaimed documentary, “Bully.”
“Bully,” the feature documentary directed by Lee Hirsch and co-written with Cynthia Lowen, is an alarming vision of the state of bullying in our schools across America today. Part documentary and part advocacy, it is a true wake-up call to action to address an issue that in recent years has seen too many of our youths take their own lives out of a sense of despair. The helplessness we view firsthand (and feel) for the family members who are left behind to make sense of all of this is both heartfelt and heart wrenching.
Lee Hirsch has stated that he himself was a victim of bullying in his youth. His ability to draw from his own personal experiences and memories is obvious as you feel this film as much as you see it. “Bully” is the first feature documentary film of its kind that shows us how bullying has affected (and numbed) us all from the victims to the perpetrators to the “innocent bystander.” One of the most remarkable things about this film is how Lee Hirsch was able to capture such extensive candid footage of everyone involved. This authenticity is equally amazing and unsettling. Filmed in multiple cities across the country, we meet four youths and their families of varying backgrounds who have been victimized and empathize with parents who are fighting back in the name of their now deceased children.
Much hoopla has been made over the film’s rating. It has gone from it’s initial R (Restricted) rating (due to the number count of curse words assessed by the MPAA…all out of the mouth of babes, I might add) to a NR (Not Rated) rating to its final and current PG-13 (Parental Guidance) rating which it received after the pressure and noise refused to die down. But all’s well that end’s well once again in Hollywood, as this unexpected publicity fiasco has done nothing but fuel the flames brightly on this little-indie-film-that-could’s behalf.
Intimate and natural in its tone and pacing, it’s an intense subject matter that has been handled extremely well with kid gloves. Some of Hollywood’s biggest names like Meryl Streep, Justin Bieber, Johnny Depp, Anderson Cooper and Ellen De Generes have all come out in support of this film and its efforts. This is a film that should be seen by everyone, but more important is the discussion and action that should follow.
More About our Fabulous Panel
Helene Abrams is the co-founder of “Think Positive World.” She has an extensive background in the entertainment industry. Her capacity of bringing together radio, television, film and theatre arts as a Producer and Director has established her as a forerunner in achieving new media genres. Her creative skills have forged successful programming concepts for numerous documentaries, television and film projects.
She is an accomplished actress in film, television radio and theatre projects. She has designed nationwide programs for children, schools and parents, as well as enrichment programs for after-school settings, charter schools, organizations and municipalities focusing on self-esteem and character development.
She is the author/illustrator of the “I’m a Person – So Smile,” family book and co-founder of the “Think Positive World” Global Initiative. She and her partner, David Giller, are currently working on the “Think Positive Bronx/NY” Campaign, and developing a “Think Positive America” nationwide bus tour for Spring 2013, to accelerate positive change in the U.S.
Amanda Adams-Louis is a visual griotte, using imagery and design she creates stories about and captures the history of people, places and things. She has a BFA from Pratt Institute in Photography, Art History and Design and is currently pursuing an MA at New York University in Visual Culture, Photography and Africana Studies. She speaks French and Italian.
She has worked as a staff photographer for NYC nightclub Stereo, Myzone Media and America Reads Counts. She was one of eight official photographers for the Winter Music Conference in 2007. She is the resident photographer for WONDERFULL, Afrokinetic, Brooklyn Renaissance and 3 Degrees Global parties.
Her images have been featured in Time Out NY, Klublife Magazine, WWD, the Brooklyn Courier, the Brooklyn Academy of Music (BAM), Spring St Gallery and Harriet’s Alter Ego Gallery.
Debra Kirschner wrote, directed and independently produced the feature film The Tollbooth, which stars Marla Sokoloff (The Practice), Rob McElhenney (It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia), Idina Menzel (Wicked, Glee) and Tovah Feldshuh (Kissing Jessica Stein). The film ran theatrically in art houses in New York, Long Island and Florida as well as festivals worldwide.
Her two original pilot scripts, “Frog Kissers” and “In Transit” are in full first season development. She also has a screenplay called “Pippi Was Here” about women who triumph over trauma through their regressive obsessions with Pippi Longstocking as well as several spec episodes of existing series.
For the last six years, Debra has been running a creative writing program at the Hoboken Shelter in New Jersey for homeless adults, and for two years she ran a creative writing workshop for women over fifty-five at Emmanuel Baptist Church in Brooklyn.
Find out more about Forty Weight Coffee.
Find out more about the critically acclaimed documentary film, “Bully.”