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CALLING ALL ZEROS

What to know: Tackles bullying head on with a cast of adorable characters and a relevant storyline.
CALLING ALL ZEROS is in the KIDS FIRST! Film Festival - it may not be a regular, endorsed title
Recommended age 7-12
52 minutes
VIDEO
JOSHUA HORNE
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CALLING ALL ZEROS cover image
Bullying has been an issue in American schools for decades and, if we want to solve it, we need to properly educate kids. This film doesn't quite give kids a clear message about dealing with bullying, but still has positive points to make for younger audiences.

This storyline follows a group of middle-school kids who are all bullied by an older girl. She takes their money, food and often hurts them physically. They try to solve it in many ways and, at the end, become close friends with the girl after they help her out of a small ravine in the woods.

The storyline is a bit unrealistic. The way the kids deal with their bullying issue might be possible, but it is unlikely that it would happen in most situations. For a movie about bullying, much more could have been done to teach kids what to do if they are being bullied. The bully's perspective is slightly hinted at, which adds to the educational value. It shows that bullies have feelings too and that they are bullies for a reason. Yet, there are some downsides to the bully. The bully character feels flat and very robotic in her actions. This spawns from the writing, as the actress brings her bullish character to the screen. The other kids are mostly young and performed quite well in bringing their characters to life. Something that works well is the use of very stereotyped characters. Their simplistic design make the story feel right and made the 54 minute runtime fly by quickly.

Although the focus of this film is more about becoming friends with the bully, there are many important messages hidden in the plot. It follows the common methods that kids should know, such as asking the bully to stop first, then more firmly. Then, if the bully keeps persisting, stay calm and walk away. If it keeps happening, get a teacher or another trusted adult involved. The film also addresses the emotions of being a bystander. If you witness bullying, intervene immediately if possible. If you cannot, get an adult quickly.

My favorite scene is also my least favorite scene, because it shows how an adult can fail to solve bullying. The bully and the girl are with their parents with a teacher talking about the situation. The teacher decides that the two children should work on a project together. While making the two socialize might work, forcing the two to work together would be a terrible decision in almost all cases. The preferred technique for dealing with a bully varies greatly, but generally it involves the adult talking to the bully directly in a calm, but stern, tone. If that doesn't work, getting the parents involved may be necessary. Forcing people to shake hands and smile doesn't work on adults and does not work on kids either. This film portrays this perfectly.

This film's purpose is to educate young kids about bullying. For that reason, a I recommend it for ages 6 to 13. Teens and even pre-teens may be too old for this film due to its simplistic nature. I give this film 3.5 out of 5 stars because I feel that it could have done much more to teach kids about bullying. I still think it has value in teaching kids many things about bullying, so I fully recommend this film for kids as young as 1st grade and all the way to 6th grade. Reviewed by Gerry O., KIDS FIRST! Film Critic, age 15

Bullying is such a big issue these days both in and out of school. This short film tackles the issue head on with a cast of adorable characters and a relevant storyline. The camera work, audio work, theme song and sets are all quite well done. I particularly love the youth actors that I think a youth audience will relate to. I recommend this to ages 7 to 12 and give it 4 out of 5 stars. Reviewed by Julie S., KIDS FIRST! Juror.
Unlikely heroes form a support group in a backyard tree house to deal with a notorious school bully.
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