Derek Kimball’s short film “The Bully” doesn’t address the suddenly hot-button subject of bullying.

Except when it does.

“The Bully,” which makes its Maine premiere Wednesday at Space Gallery, isn’t an after-school special, laying out obvious problems and satisfyingly pat solutions. Instead, like the best short fiction, the focus of “The Bully” is narrowed to one short period of time, a limited sequence of events and a small number of characters.

And it resonates.

The daylong tale of a watchful young boy whose school day encompasses young crushes, an unreliable friend, a foolish decision and an unexpected encounter is beautifully shot, naturally acted (by some very natural kids) and hauntingly evocative in the way of a really good short story.

Filmed in Wisconsin by Maine native Kimball (by virtue of the equipment rental won by his previous short “I Want You to Know” at the Milwaukee International Film Festival), “The Bully” plays very much like a visualization of a short story by master of the form Raymond Carver, an opinion echoed excitedly by the director.

“Carver is one of my greatest influences. He drops you in the middle of the story and then he pulls you out,” Kimball said. “You have to meet an author halfway. You can make a larger implied world by omitting, by managing time, whereas in a feature film, you have to provide a lot more; it’s harder to be poetic.

“With a short film, you have to trust that your audience is smart enough to provide their own details to the story.”

While Kimball concedes that he, like most of us, got picked on quite a bit as a kid, he says “The Bully” is more about “alienation and being exposed to adult situations at an early age, and seeing that world is flawed.”

His young protagonist learns that “these things happen to everyone. Things are tough, but they get better.”

I got that and more from “The Bully,” all in about a half hour. And like all good short stories, it’s stuck with me.

Doors open at 7 p.m. for Wednesday’s showing. “The Bully” will be preceded by Kimball’s previous short “I Want You to Know” and will be followed by performances from Graham and South China, who provided music for the film.



Dennis Perkins is a freelance writer who lives in Portland.

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