Despite the ratings controversy this timely film engendered (egged on by its distributor in the interest of free publicity), Bully is essential viewing for teens and adults and ought to be shown in every high school. In focusing on the plights of five students harassed by their peers for one silly, inexcusable reason or another (including, in at least one case, sexual orientation), director Lee Hirsch exposes the utter cluelessness of well-meaning parents and the horrific ineffectiveness of school administrators at protecting the children in their charge. Simply put, this is the year’s one must-see documentary because young people’s lives truly are on the line.
Honorable Mention: HOW TO SURVIVE A PLAGUE
A riveting recollection on the formation of the AIDS Coalition to Unleash Power (ACT UP) in mid-1980’s New York City. After hundreds of deaths and thousands of HIV infections, a diverse assortment of young people came together to take on church and state in support of people with AIDS. Their efforts resulted a decade later in the introduction of the first protease inhibitor, literally saving lives today. The film serves as both a necessary eulogy and an inspiring celebration of our history.