By Tomika Anderson, Special to CNN - Director Lee Hirsch hopes his documentary about bullying will shed light on what he sees as a crisis in American society, but an MPAA R rating may keep the intended audience of middle school and high school kids from getting a chance to watch it.
The doc, titled "Bully," follows five students and their families throughout the course of a school year, and aims to provide a variety of perspectives on the reality of bullying.
It features two families who have lost children to suicide, as well as a mother who is awaiting the fate of her 14-year-old daughter, who was locked up after bringing a gun aboard her school bus.
That's why Hirsch said he was so thrilled when a young victim of bullying - a high school student in Michigan - started a petition on Change.org to urge the MPAA to change the rating to PG-13.
"It's just simply not an R film," he said. "And I can't tell you enough how inspiring it's been to wake up and see that a 17-year-old student from Ann Arbor, Michigan launched a petition...It's so awesome! And what's amazing about it is it's not just that people are signing, it's that they're sharing, and they're telling their stories, and they're connecting with each other."
What Hirsch wants viewers to understand, he said, "is that for someone who's a victim of constant, frequent bullying, it's akin to torture. It's daily, violent, terrifying. It's soul-crushing stuff. We don't say to soldiers who have been tortured to just not expect anyone to have sympathy for you. We don't do that to people who were tortured. And we shouldn't do that with our kids."
"Bully" is scheduled to be released March 30 in New York and on April 13 in Los Angeles, as well as other select cities nationwide.