DOCUMENTARY; 1hr 39min


Bully bait: Kelby (left) and friends, Tuttle, Oklahoma

Director and cinematographer Lee Hirsh goes in close with his saddening documentary about the shocking habitual reality of bullying in middle America’s schools. Victimised, unhappy children, apparently powerless school authorities and parents pushed beyond limits that nobody should reach: Hirsch’s hovering, handheld camera bears intimate witness to it all through the experiences of five targeted kids.


The cost is grievous for those caught up in a peck system as savage as the jungle floor, most tragically in the cases of 17-year-old Tyler Long, who hanged himself after years of physical and mental torment, and 11-year-old Ty Field, who also took his own life. “He had a target on his back,” Tyler’s heartbroken father, David, says simply. “Everybody knew that.”


Then why was nobody able to stop it? Hirsch hits a range of potent notes but the chord that most resonates is a deep-seated sense of helplessness. The damaged families struggle to rally, but the enemy they are fighting — as pervasive as any pandemic — is the base note of human nature.