Eager moviegoers sitting in Theater 10 at the Carmike Majestic 12 on Broad Street on Tuesday evening were among the first people in the Chattanooga area to see the documentary "Bully."
In the audience were Renee Tennyson; her son Riley Tennyson, a sixth- grader at Hixson Middle School; Trish Cox; and her middle school son Caelan Cox.
With the film's controversial former "R" rating and buzz about the movie, expectations were high.
"We expect the world to hear the truth," Renee Tennyson said. "Kids are getting too scared."
Before the film began, Chattanooga's Kids on the Block performers did a short skit with puppets about how to handle bullying and discuss it with adults.
The film's opening shot features home video footage of Tyler Long, a Murray County, Ga., resident who, at 17, hanged himself in 2009 after being tormented in his high school's hallways. The Long family's story is just one of several featured in "Bully."
"It means so much to be able to do this in the area with friends who have kids in the area," Tyler Long's mother Tina Long said before the premiere.
"We've been waiting for this opportunity to arrive," his father, David Long, said.
Footage of the Long family showed that they turned Tyler's former room, where David found his son hanging, into what they call the "headquarters" -- an office where they continue their crusade against bullying.
Another story in the film involves Alex, a junior high student from Iowa with Asperger's syndrome. The film features footage of students verbally assaulting as well as stabbing, punching and even strangling Alex while riding the school bus.
Students Riley and Caelan said they could relate to that, as they both have Asperger's syndrome and were bullied in the hallways and on the bus.
"They cuss at me, force me to leave," Riley said. "I want to see a stand against bullying."
Both students were bullied so much they eventually were taken off the bus, their parents said.
"[The movie] touched a queasy place deep inside," Renee Tennyson said.
After the movie, audience members participated in a question-and-answer session with the Long family and local school administrators, and students spoke about their experiences with bullying.
The premiere was hosted by the Chattanooga Times Free Press, WRCB-TV Channel 3, the city's Department of Education, Arts & Culture, and the Chattanooga Southeast Tennessee Film Commission.
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