Norwegian film “Turn me on, goddammit”

The themes of bullying, being bullied, and the horrific effects it can have on a child were displayed in full force at this year’s 2011 Tribeca Film Festival in New York.

Director Lee Hirsch, who was himself bullied as a child, helms this poignant, thorough and very topical “Bully Project,” which takes you not only into the lives of children being ridiculed and teased at school, but, literally, onto the school bus right along with both the weak and the tormented. He also highlights two families who both suffered a devastating loss when their child killed themselves. (One middle-school age child, and one teen-ager).

Far from being sheer heartache in motion, Hirsch’s agenda seems to be one of getting the school’s faculty and leadership more involved (in what has become a national issue of serious force),  while school administrators argue that it is the parents who need to teach their children to respect others. The doc just got picked up by the Weinstein Company, so you will soon be able to judge for yourself.  I loved it.

The new Tony Kaye film “Detachment,” starring Adrien Brody, Marcia Gay Harden, Christina Hendricks, James Caan and Lucy Liu, not only dives head-on into the life of one very tortured, teenage girl’s life, but into the life of her teachers and head principal’s.

Brody brings his natural, irresistible talent to the forefront of this film, which is, to put it mildly, completely heart-wrenching. You get to see both sides of the equation fully here- the teenager with far too much emotional weight on her shoulders, the classroom of disrespectful kids who border on terrorizing, and the lonely, exhausting lives of these high school teachers. It is quite something to see a subject portrayed so starkly, and Kaye is clearly mad as hell about the subject- as he is far too talented to be this heavy-handed without being aware of it. This film is supposed to hit you like a ton of bricks, and it most certainly does.  This should be rudimentary viewing for anyone with a kid about to enter public school, or anyone who wants to know why people always consistently say that teachers should be making a million dollars a year.

The Norwegian film “Turn me on, goddammit,” was a minor hit at Tribeca this year. It features some very natural, great performances by non-actors, and is the first feature from director Jannicke Systad Jacobsen. It centers on a very horny teenager, Alma, who gets bumped down into the nether regions of the high school hierarchy after a boy that she has a crush on “pokes” her leg with his penis at a party. She soon becomes known as “Dick Alma, ” and is completely shunned at school. I wasn’t as crazy as everyone was else about this film, but it is a lot of fun, and is even stranger set against the bleak, rural Norwegian landscape. Alma perseveres far better than the subjects and characters of the film above, which also made it a pleasure to watch.

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