Trevor Meader knows firsthand that you can’t edit reality.

The 15-year-old from Oakland, near Waterville, says he has been taunted and bullied over the years, including having horrible language directed his way. So he was bothered initially when he heard that some of the language in the documentary film “Bully” was being edited so the film could get a PG-13 rating instead of an R.

Even so, when the film finally opens in Maine on Friday — more than a month after its initial release — Meader plans to see it.

“I’ve heard good things, and I definitely want to see it. I think it can help,” said Meader. “I just think, personally, it’s not as powerful when you don’t see what’s actually going on (with the bad language). Kids are seeing these things and hearing these things every day.”

Maine teenagers and educators who work to stop bullying have lauded the trailers and previews of “Bully,” and have waited eagerly for it to come here. The film follows several students as they face consistent verbal and physical bullying.

Many anti-bullying advocates have said the uncut version would probably be more powerful. But reviewers of the edited PG-13 version say the film was not substantially changed.

Three of the film’s six mentions of the F-word were edited out, but a key scene that was often mentioned as the reason for an R rating from the Motion Picture Association of America — in which a teenage boy is brutally harassed on a school bus for an extended period — remains in the PG-13 version.

At least three theaters in southern Maine are scheduled to show the PG-13 version of “Bully”: Cinemagic in Saco, Nickelodeon Cinemas in Portland and Eveningstar Cinema in Brunswick.

Carl Lakari, who works with teenagers on bullying prevention projects as coordinator of the Maine youth empowerment group Project AWARE, says he doesn’t think the editing of the film will reduce its impact. Teenagers in Project AWARE have made anti-bullying videos, and Lakari argues that sometimes, to get a message across to youngsters, it’s better to “not overdo it.”

“It’s sometimes hard to find a balance with things like this,” said Lakari. “How overboard do you go to get their attention?” From what he has heard about the film, Lakari thinks it will help draw more attention to the problem of bullying in all forms, and its potentially horrific consequences.

“It’s always good when you have something like this film that can reach a huge number of people, even if you don’t agree with every bit of content,” said Lakari. “From a youth empowerment perspective, people have to know there is a problem (with bullying), and this will help let them know. I guarantee this film will strike a chord with people who are working on bullying, who have been bullied, or who have been bystanders.”

Meader, who says he has been threatened with beatings and pushed and shoved at times, is involved with Project AWARE and sometimes speaks at schools about bullying. He thinks the key to ending bullying is education — helping people of all ages learn exactly what bullying is, how prevalent it is, and how damaging it can be.

He thinks “Bully” will help with that education.

“I think it’s about teaching acceptance, understanding how mean people can be,” he said.

Dede Bennell, a service learning coordinator at Freeport High School who is working on an anti-bullying project with a senior English class, is glad that the film now has a PG-13 rating, because many more people are likely to see it — an R rating means that children younger than 17 must be accompanied by an adult.

Bennell also thinks that weeks of news stories and controversy surrounding the film’s rating will prove helpful.

“The fact that it’s made headlines has drawn attention and sparked curiosity,” said Bennell, who plans to see the film. “I think this will be an important film for many people to see, as hard as it might be to watch. Reality is not always neat and tidy.”

Bennell and others at Freeport High considered trying to take students to see “Bully,” but end-of-the-year schedule restraints made it too difficult. Lakari said he would encourage teenagers he works with to see the film.

Hanna Langley, 15, of Arundel has helped make anti-bullying videos with Project AWARE that are on YouTube. She says she was bullied through much of elementary and middle school for being different, and for liking things “other kids didn’t.”

Langley said it wasn’t until she joined Project AWARE that she realized she was not alone in her struggles with bullies, and that she could find emotional safety.

She plans to see “Bully,” and hopes that the editing was slight enough to preserve the film’s impact.

“Bullying is about the language — the language gets pretty brutal and graphic,” said Langley. “If you don’t hear the language, you don’t see what bullying is really like.” 

Staff Writer Ray Routhier can be contacted at 791-6454 or at: [email protected]

 

Project AWARE held a Summer Film Institute for beginners in 2010 and Trevor Meader was involved in the making of this PSA:

Hanna Langley attended Project AWARE’s 2011 institute and helped create this PSA: