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The Independent Critic

Craig Scott, Kirk Smalley, Haley Kilpatrick and many others
Bill Cornelius
52 Mins.

 "Hear Me Now" a Straightforward, Meaningful Doc About Bullying 
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The folks from Nashville-based Skydive Films are back with another powerful documentary after their Emmy award-nominated Nashville Rises,  this time around tackling the subject of bullying in the straightforward yet emotionally resonant Hear Me Now.

Written and directed by Bill Cornelius, Hear Me Now "strives to become the quintessential anti school bullying documentary to change and save the lives of those who have experienced bullying" according to the film's website. Weaving together personal testimonies with poignant reenactments, Hear Me Now finds much of its power on the strength and vulnerability of the people whom Cornelius interviews including students, survivors of bullying, teachers, experts and others.

While several of the film's participants are effective, the most powerful are likely Craig Scott, a Columbine survivor whose sister Rachel was one of the students murdered, and anti-bullying activist Kirk Smalley, who lost his son to suicide.

Cornelius, who acknowledges in the film being a survivor of bullying himself, has crafted a film that is often reminiscent of the "It Gets Better" project, a media awareness project designed to reach out to LGBT youth. In this case, Cornelius uses the lens to paint a simple yet effective portrait of bullying while obviously aiming the film squarely at providing hope for those who either are enduring it or have endured it.

Yeah, it gets better.

Fortunately, Cornelius fills the film with a tremendous diversity - this helps to remind all of us that bullying impacts across the full spectrum of life. While the expert testimonials in the film are largely of a fundamental nature, they are effective in balancing out the film's more emotional scenes with valuable information. He uses, at times, onscreen transitions to share little pieces of information and statistics, transitions that are occasionally a tad gimmicky but generally effective.

Hear Me Now didn't quite hit me with the power that did Nashville Rises, though this may also be because I've spent much of my life working in the area of children and violence and I was familiar with most of the information presented. This is an effective film, but at times I felt like I was being goaded into emotions rather than being immersed in the testimonies. It's a subtle difference, but an important difference.

For more information on the film, visit the film's website linked to in the credits to the left of this review.

Written by Richard Propes
The Independent Critic