Bullied is a vital documentary that sheds light on the issue of bullying. Director Thomas Keith covers topics related to bullywood include cyberbullying, bullying of minorities, the emotional and mental effects of bullying like depression and suicide, the negative effect of bad role models like Donald Trump on children, the tendancy of bullies to provoke their victims to engage in reactive abuse to victim-blame them while reversing the roles of victim & offender, and the academic programs that try to provide children with the building blocks to avoid bullying others. That's a lot of ground to cover within the running time of just 78 minutes, so while Bullied is broad in scope, it doesn't delve deeply enough and overlooks the elephant in the room: narcissistic personality disorder and/or antisocial personality disorder. It also glosses over the question, "To what degree are parents to blame for the toxic behavior of their children?" Behavior is learned from somewhere, not just through social media. Do parents not have a responsibility to provide their children with good values? Keith shows how children can bully children and adults can bully adults, but what about adults who bully children or, worse, their very own children? How effective are the academic courses that teach kids the importance of acknowledging their actions and the consequences of their actions? Accountability, after all, is not just a word, it's a large concept that may never be learned if the child has never learned how to see and treat others like human beings.
One of my childhood bullies, who will remain nameless for now, was an adult when he first bullied me. 20 years later, through lies, gaslighting and deception, he tricked me into meeting up with him at his office. I was hoping that he had changed into a more decent human being throughout the years. Instead, he bullied and belittled me yet again. He even had the nerve to ask me how my mother, his friend, abused me as a child. When I told him about some of the abuse details, he interrupted me a few times to invalidate my feelings before angrily snapping, "I don't want to hear anymore!" Why did he ask me, then? At the age of 70, why does he have no shame in emotionally hurting and violating another human being? He did admit that he finds accountability to be very, very, very hard, but does he think that that excuses him from being abusive? Where did he get his values from? Where is his moral conscience? Does him being a lawyer give him the right to cross people's boundaries, belittle them and abuse them without remorse, empathy or accountability? What kind of a human being inflicts suffering on another human being? What kind of a human being picks on someone vulnerable? What kind of an adult bullies a child to begin with? A very toxic, emotionally immature and sadistic human being. A complicated question related to that is, "Should victims have empathy for their abuser?", "Is it possible that the more empathy that a victim has for his or her abuser, the more it drains the empathy that they need to have for themselves?" and "Should victims forgive their bullies if it means that they're absolving them of their abusive behavior?" Those are just a few questions to ponder. Their answers are subjective and open to debate.
The sad, harsh reality is that even if a malignant narcissist like my childhood/adulthood bullies or Donald Trump were to see Bullied, they probably would probably never have to self-awareness nor the emotional maturity to recognize themselves as a bully and to change into a decent human being who doesn't dehumanize, violate and abuse other people. No one deserves to be bullied, and it's usually hurt people who end up hurting other people because they don't know what to do with their own pain, so they lash out at other people. That doesn't excuse them at all. Bullies are responsible for the pain that they cause their victims, but each victim is responsible for what they do with that pain. Instead of hurting others or themselves with it which is counterproductive, there's at least some hope that they can heal from it and to overcome it. Just because someone else dehumanizes you, doesn't mean that you have to dehumanize yourself. Remember that being a decent human being who sees and treats other like human beings is a sign of strength. Bullies who hurt and dehumanize people with their abusive behavior are weak and cowardly. Sometimes a small light can be turned on in a dark room, and it's also possible to find that light inside of you. Bullied is here to remind victims of bullying of that possibility and that they're not alone in their suffering.
Judas and the Black Messiah
In 1969, FBI informant William O'Neal (LaKeith Stanfield) infiltrates the Illinois Black Panther Party and attends meetings with Black Panther leader Fred Hampton (Daniel Kaluuya) before reporting back to FBI Agent Roy Mitchell (Jesse Plemons). Dominique Fishback plays Fred Hampton's activist girlfriend, Deborah Johnson, and Martin Sheen plays J. Edgar Hoover.
Based on a true events, Writer/director Shaka King and co-writer Will Berson go back and forth between William's interactions with the FBI and his interactions with the Black Panther Party where he risks his life if someone finds out his true identity. King could have easily turned the film into a character-driven drama with a slow-to-medium burn, but instead opts for a suspense thriller with a medium-to-fast burn. There's nothing inherently wrong with that because it makes the film more slick and commercial, but it means that there's less opportunities and time for the screenplay, based on a true story, to slow down and get inside the heart, mind and soul of the characters. Fred's relationship with his girlfriend remains underexplored. Fortunately, King and Berson do a solid job of blending in just the right amount of exposition in a way that doesn't feel contrived nor clunky, so the film never loses its momentum with lazy, expository scenes. A lot of tension and suspense arises once FBI Agent Roy Mitchell arrests William and strikes a deal with him to hire him as an informant. That palpable suspense alone helps to make the film a captivating experience.
Much of the emotional depth in Judas and the Black Messiah comes not from the screenplay, but rather from the performances themselves. Daniel Kaluuya gives a bravura performance as do LaKeith Stanfield, Jesse Plemons and Dominique Fishback. Kudos to the casting director Alexa L. Fogel for selecting such a well-chosen ensemble who give natural performances without any hamminess. The lively, stylish editing by Kristan Sprague also helps to invigorate the film and the same can be said about the musical score and cinematography. At a running time of 2 hours and 6 minutes, Judas and the Black Messiah is an intense, captivating and gripping story about the Black Power movement, racism and police brutality.
A Writer's Odyssey
A Writer's Odyssey gradually builds suspense as the filmmakers eschew a first act and jump right into the meat of the story after Guan Ning's daughter has already been kidnapped six years earlier. Who kidnapped her? Why was she kidnapped? How was she kidnapped? Guan Ning has a lot of questions to discover the answers for, but he gets a chance to find those answers when he meets Tu Ling very early on in the film. Very little makes sense initially, but that's okay because the audience learns new information at the same time as Tangerine's father does, so they're along with him for his dangerous quest into the supernatural.
There aren't any real surprises in terms of the plot, especially as the action kicks into high gear. Yes, there are scenes that make you feel like you're watching a video game, but at least the film doesn't drown the audience in excessive CGI while sacrificing its story and characters. The action scenes feel exhilarating and thrilling, and the desperation of Guan Ning to find his daughter remains genuinely heartfelt for the most part. A Writer's Odyssey would make for a great father's day movie.