Bully may be tiny—at least in terms of its budget—but it's not going to be pushed around by the MPAA or anybody else!
This riveting documentary chronicling students from high schools in the South and Midwest who are the victims of bullying is making quite a big mark on the national conversation thanks to the Motion Picture Association of America's tin-eared decision to slap the film with an R rating.
E! News takes a look back at the controversy that erupted out of that and prompted some of Hollywood's biggest heavyweights to throw their support behind a campaign to get the MPAA to change its mind…
2009: Documentary filmmaker Lee Hirsch secures partial funding from the nonprofit organization Fractured Atlas to make a movie documenting the devastating effects bullying has on children. The idea came out of his own experiences of being bullied in high school.
2009-2010: Filming commences at schools in Georgia, Mississippi, Texas and Iowa and chronicles the lives of students who are the victims of harassment and frequent violence at the hands of their peers. One of the stories Hirsch recounts is the tragic suicide of Georgia teen Tyler Long following near-daily bullying.
Apr. 23, 2011: Originally titled The Bully Project, the documentary has its world premiere at the Tribeca Film Festival and is well-received by critics and audiences alike.
Apr. 25, 2011: Two days later, Harvey Weinstein's The Weinstein Company acquires the rights to release the film (a particularly ironic move given the Hollywood mogul's infamous rep for bullying fellow executives and employees. Making amends, Harvey?).
Spring, summer and fall 2011: Bully hits the festivals in force. Among the stops are Toronto's Hot Docs International Documentary Festival on May 4, the Los Angeles Film Festival on June 19, the Zurich Film Festival in September and the Austin Film Festival the next month.
Oct. 13, 2011: CNN's Anderson Cooper hosts a special Anderson Cooper 360° town hall dubbed "Bully: It Stops Here" in which he speaks with Hirsch at length about the problem and how it can be addressed.
February 2012: The MPAA gives Bully an R rating for "some language," preventing kids from going to the movies without being accompanied by a parent or guardian.
Feb. 23, 2012: Weinstein personally makes an appeal before the board with one of the students bullied in the film, Alex Libby, requesting the MPAA lower it to a PG-13 so it reaches the widest audience possible. The ratings appeals board, however, falls one vote shy of overturning the original decision.
Feb. 26, 2012: Katy Butler, a 17-year-old high school student in Michigan, launches a petition at Chang.org calling on the MPAA to reduce the rating. The petition goes viral within a couple of days as the media pick up on it and interview Butler, who's been the victim of bullying herself as an out lesbian.
Feb. 28, 2012: The MPAA issues a statement defending its decision, noting that while bullying is a serious issue, "there is a misconception about the R rating" and pointing out that, "as with any movie, parents will decide if they want their children to see Bully," along with school districts as well.
Mar. 7, 2012: Butler hand-delivers more than 225,000 petition signatures to the MPAA in Los Angeles and later that day appears on an episode of The Ellen DeGeneres Show, where the comedian has endorsed her campaign.
Mar. 9, 2012: Under building public pressure, the MPAA announces it will host a screening of Bully and panel discussion at an invitation-only event in Washington, D.C., attended by educators and politicians.
Mar. 12, 2012: More celebrities join the cause, including Justin Bieber and Demi Lovato, the latter of whom urges her followers on Twitter to sign the petition.
Mar. 13, 2012: Johnny Depp and Meryl Streep are the latest Hollywood stars to join the movement along with New Orleans quarterback Drew Brees. Other supporters include Streep's daughter, Mamie Gummer, who's planning to cohost a screening in New York City, the CEO of AMC Entertainment, and more than 20 lawmakers who have signed a bipartisan letter urging the MPAA to reverse its decision.
Mar. 30, 2012: Bully is scheduled for release. As of press time (Mar. 14), the film still has an R rating but 300,000 people have signed Butler's petition.