Anti-Bully Film Costs Florida Teacher His Job
At the conclusion of Kim Rocco Shields' short film "Love Is All You Need?" Ashley, around twelve or thirteen years old, commits suicide by slashing her wrists in a bathtub. By the time her two moms find her, it's too late. Ashley is gone. Moments earlier, Ashley had wiped the word "hetero" off her forehead, which the bullies at her school had written with a sharpie as they beat and taunted her.
Throughout the 19-minute film, Ashley struggles with her sexual identity as she's brutally degraded by everyone who crosses her path. Parents, teachers, other students, it makes no difference, they all treat her the same.
All because Ashley is straight.
Shields' brilliant film is taken from the real life experiences of kids who've been bullied. In reversing the sexual identity labels, the filmmaker creates a hauntingly nightmarish, ultimately heartbreaking fable, which underscores the brutal ugliness of bullying as no other film has.
"We created the film in order to help stop bullying, to help end prejudice," Shields said. "The film allows you to put the shoe on the other foot and really get a sense of what it's like to be in that group of people who've been marginalized because of who they love."
Shields said that she was shocked that the film went viral, and that it's having an impact.
The short film has received over 3 million hits on YouTube and has won many awards at film festivals. Now, as Shields actively raises funds to turn the film into a feature, she's joined the campaign in defense of a Northern Florida teacher who lost his job for showing the film to students.
Jeremy Rhoden, gay a teacher at Polatka High School in in Polatka, screened the film to his students at a February 20 school assembly. At a March 14 hearing of the Polatka School Board, parents and clergy condemned the film for promoting sodomy, for attempting to "indoctrinate" children, and of "offending" God. Shields was part of a group of people who traveled to Florida to show support for Rhoden, who she said "did nothing wrong."
Shields is now hard at work on her Indiegogo campaign, hopeful that she can raise the funds she needs to make a feature out of her groundbreaking short. She's partnering with GLSEN, the Gay Lesbian Straight Education Network, the first time GLSEN has worked with a film production company. Shields says that she needs to raise her budget by July 2, and is hopeful that she'll do so. She says that she's been blessed to receive an outpouring of support from many, many people.
More information can be found at Shields' website: RoccoChields.com.
Love is All You Need can be seen at LoveIsAllYouNeedTheMovie.com, which includes a link to Shields' Indie Go Go campaign