The Weinstein Co. is so shocked and upset that the MPAA upheld the R rating of its documentary "Bully" Thursday, it is considering taking a leave of absence from the association.
The company had asked MPAA 's Classification and Ratings Appeals Board to rate the movie PG-13. The board's tally was one vote short of the number needed to change the rating.
After learning of the board's decision, Weinstein Co. co-chair Harvey Weinstein said in a statement that "The Weinstein Company 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."
The company is not a member of the MPAA but does submit its movies to the association to be rated. It is now considering whether to stop doing so for a time.
The MPAA rated the movie R on the basis of language used in the film — language that young teens hurled at a 13-year-old.
"What makes the film strong is it's honest and real and it's what really happens," Lee Hirsch, the documentary's director, told TheWrap Thursday afternoon. "To create that barrier to young people seeing it is a disappointment."
He said that "it's the youth who are asking for this film, and they are the ones we need to activate."
The movie tells the stories of five bullied young people.
Harvey Weinstein appeared before the appeals board with Alex Libby (above), one of the bullied children whose experiences are documented in the movie.
Hirsch waited in the hallway while Weinstein and Libby addressed the board.
"It was unbelievable," Hirsch said. "When the doors open and Harvey and Alex walked out, literally, Harvey was crying."
He said that 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."
Oddly, the board's decision means that Libby cannot go, on his own, to a movie that chronicles the events of his own life.
It also means that schools are unlikely to bring students to see the movie.
In his statement, Weinstein said that the Cincinnati school district had planned to bus some 40,000 students to see the movie.
"But because the appeals board retained the R rating, the school district will have to cancel those plans," Weinstein said.
One school that will show the movie is Los Angeles's Fairfax High, which screens the movie for about 150 students on Friday morning.
Hirsch will attend the screening and participate in a question-and-answer session.
In a written statement, the MPAA said that "“Bullying is a serious issue and is a subject that parents should discuss with their children. The MPAA agrees with the Weinstein Company that Bully can serve as a vehicle for such important discussions."
But it said that the association has to "acknowledge and represent the strong feedback from parents throughout the country who want to be informed about content in movies, including language."
The MPAA statement said that "the R rating is not a judgment on the value of the movie. The rating simply conveys to parents that a film has elements strong enough to require careful consideration before allowing their children to view it."