Controversial U.S. doc Bully gets PG rating in B.C., Alberta

The ratings for the upcoming Lee Hirsch-directed documentary have come off without storm in Canada, in contrast to the blowback over a restrictive R rating issued by the MPAA stateside.

Canadian movie censors aren’t following their American counterparts and restricting young Canadians from seeing a U.S. documentary about the high school bullying epidemic at the local multiplex, owing to profanity.

On Friday, Alberta became the second Canadian province to issue a PG rating to the Weinstein Company’s upcoming documentary, Bully, which is set to roll out in Canadian theatres on April 6.

The first PG rating for the Alliance-distributed film was issued by Consumer Protection B.C. earlier last week.

The Canadian ratings follow a stateside controversy after the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) gave a restrictive R rating to the documentary in the U.S. market.

Bully, from director Lee Hirsch, documents the rise in adolescent bullying in America, and depicts the experiences of five young victims of bullying.

The R rating closes doors to the very audience the film aims to reach – middle school and high school students and their families.

The MPAA rating was issued because of instances of foul language, reportedly six f-bombs uttered during a bullying incident that was caught on film.

To attend an R-rated film, young people under 17 years of age must be accompanied by a parent or guardian.

The MPAA decision has spawned blowback from anti-bullying advocates in the U.S. who contend that any positive impact from kids and teens seeing the film far outweighs the negative consequences of strong language.

It’s also sparked a wave of free publicity for the doc in the U.S., ahead of its March 30 release, which inevitably has spilled into the Canadian media market.

U.S. talk show host Ellen DeGeneres last week tweeted “I wish this movie could be shown in every classroom in America,” and a Michigan high school student started a petition that has so far collected 279,000 signatures to compel the MPAA to change its restrictive rating to PG-13.

The latest turn in the controversy has the MPAA hosting a screening and panel discussion for the doc this week, an invitation-only event in Washington, D.C. for educators, with a panel that will include MPAA chair Chris Dodd, Harvey Weinstein and Hirsch.

Meanwhile, the PG ratings from B.C. and Alberta ahead of the April 6 release have come off without controversy.

In Canada, movie ratings are set by authorities in each province.

No age restrictions imposed in Canada for Bully brought an effusive thank you from director Lee Hirsch.

“I’m so humbled and incredibly inspired by the collective voices across the U.S. and Canada about this film. Last night, I learned of the B.C. Board’s decision to grant Bully a PG rating….Kids of all ages can now join their parents, teachers, social work advocates and leaders to bring about change for this deeply important cause,” he said in statement, following the B.C. rating decision.

 With files from Etan Vlessing