When offered the opportunity to comment on bullying, the consensus from students who recently attended the screening of “A Girl Like Her” was it’s real, it’s what’s happening and the truth of it is scary. Alyssa Mason, a student at Northview Public Schools, said the film was “the best representation (of bullying) I’ve seen.”
“It was a great experience for our kids,” said Sparta Area Schools guidance counselor Adam Pfeffer, adding that it complemented the district’s participation in the Be Nice program. “Hopefully we can get more people to view it and continue to talk about it.”
The staged documentary follows the story of a bullied teen who attempts suicide, and the bully, who throughout the film transforms to realize the effect her actions have on others. It revealed struggles many bullies face at home and outside of school that lead them to behave a certain way, often without understanding the gravity of their behavior.
The screening and panel discussion was made possible through a collaboration between Girl Scouts of Michigan Shore to Shore, WOTV, Celebration!Cinemas and Pine Rest Christian Mental Health Services. Attending students came from Grand Rapids Public Schools, Sparta Area Schools, Northview Public Schools, Lighthouse Academy, Hope Academy of West Michigan and Jenison Public Schools.
“We need to change the conversation to include both sides of every scenario,” said writer/director Amy S. Weber, who spoke with students after the screening at Celebration!Cinemas North. Weber said the film was “conceived through a lifetime of experiences,” and that it was loosely based on the story of Phoebe Prince, a 15-year-old who took her own life in 2010 following months of harassment from peers.
“Look at what’s on TV. Our world has become comfortable with being negative. We’re addicted to drama,” said Weber, explaining that bullies have fallen victim to their surroundings as well, and may have a difficult time seeing the impact of their actions. “We need to change the conversation to include both sides of every scenario,” Weber said. “We’re not fighting against bullying, we need to find another way around it, to heal it.”
Alger Middle School student Antania Riley said she could relate to the story, and that it was good motivation to get to better know her peers. “We should think about the victim and the bully, to get to know who they really are,” she said.