CALL FOR HELP Bullying in schools across America is explored in this documentary
Credit: The Weinstein Company

The Weinstein Company lost an appeal this morning to have the MPAA rating of its upcoming documentary Bully changed from R to PG-13, the studio announced. The film, about the epidemic of adolescent bullying in America, was rated R for “some language.”

TWC co-chairman Harvey Weinstein and one of the bullied children in the film, Alex Libby (pictured), delivered statements to the MPAA’s Classification and Rating Appeals Board today, arguing that an R rating would prevent Bully from reaching the adolescent audience that would most benefit from the movie. (The studio was planning on screening the documentary at various middle and high schools.) However, for an MPAA rating to be overturned, a two-thirds vote is required — and Bully was one vote short.

Following the decision, Weinstein released a statement saying that TWC is considering a leave of absence from the MPAA for the foreseeable future. “We respect the MPAA and their process but feel this time it has just been a bridge too far,” said Weinstein. “I have been through many of these appeals, but this one vote loss is a huge blow to me personally. Alex Libby gave an impassioned plea and eloquently defended the need for kids to be able to see this movie on their own, not with their parents, because that is the only way to truly make a change.”

In 2010, TWC won an appeal for the sexually explicit Blue Valentine, changing the movie’s rating from NC-17 to R. But with Bully losing its appeal, the studio has a few options to choose from. TWC could reedit the movie or mute the more offensive instances of profanity — the latter path was taken by TWC when it opted to release a PG-13 version of The King’s Speech after it won Best Picture last year. Or TWC could leave the MPAA, opening up the possibility of releasing Bully without an official rating. That course of action, however, could limit the amount of theaters that the documentary (and potentially future TWC titles) plays in.

Bully, which was directed by Lee Hirsch (Amandla! A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony), is scheduled to open in theaters on March 30. The movie’s website currently describes the film as “not yet rated.”