The documentary "Mentor, " which DC-based documentary and independent film production Garden Thieves Pictures released on DVD and VOD on December 16 2014, presents a fascinating perspective on the widely covered topic of bullying. Although virtually everyone knows that bullying is prevalent at every level of American society and often causes severe emotional distress that can lead to suicide, documentary filmmaker Alix Lambert addresses a notable cluster of severe and unchecked bullying in Mentor, Ohio.
The first factor that makes this topic documentary worthy is that Mentor has been included in a list of the top 100 best places to live in the United States; the second factor is that the bullying at Mentor High School has been adequately intense to be considered a factor in at least five suicides; the element that makes the Mentor story a trifecta regarding newsworthiness is that it that the school administration seemingly has a history of turning a willful blind eye to the problem.
The following clip, courtesy of YouTube, of the trailer for "Mentor" provides a rather intense look at this rather intense film.
Much of the film revolved around the Vidovics, a Croatian family who fled their native land to escape war and moved to Mentor because of the quality of life that that community seemed to offer. They failed to consider that the "foreignness" of daughter Sladjana was almost certain to make her a target for at least some bullying. Not anticipating that the abuse would include physical contact and be severe enough to prompt her to kill herself was more understandable.
Interviews with the parents and siblings of Sladjana (as well as home movies) showed both the characteristics that made that girl a target of bullies and reported that the school demonstrated extreme insensitivity even following an incident in which a football player pushed this perfectly nice kid down some stairs.
It is equally sad that the nature of the bullying that small, thin, and pale glee club kid Eric Mohat experienced was readily apparent on the first image of that kid performing. He simply achieved the bullying trifecta of being very involved in what is perceived of as an effeminate activity, being a textbook 90-pound weakling, and being a bit of a nerd. It goes without saying that he should have been praised for doing his own thing, being himself, and for being so proud regarding all that.
Lambert does an excellent job portraying both the love that the mother of Eric feels for her child and the effect of his horrible death on her. Losing a child is tragic, but it seems to hurt this woman even more than it affects others who suffer the same tragedy.
Other interviewed people include friends of the victims and attorneys who are involved in legal action against the Mentor school system. These individuals further contribute to the very personal vibe associated with the film.
All of the interviews and shared documents clearly showed that any efforts by Mentor High School administrators to address the bullying problem were ineffective; the film further indicated a lack of concern and/or sensitivity by those educators.
As mentioned above, the newsworthiness of all that occurred related to it happening in a community in which a national ranking and other indications provided a reasonable expectation that the city provided a good quality of life. Also as mentioned above, the degree of bullying seemed grossly disproportionate to the hype associated with life in Mentor.
Anyone with questions or comments regarding "Mentor" is welcome to email me. You can also connect on Twitter via @tvdvdguy.