McHENRY – “Finding Kind” opens with a young girl talking about thoughts of suicide. The girl, Holly, uses her sweatshirt sleeve to wipe away tears as she speaks. She was bullied by other girls at school.
Hers was one of many emotional stories audience members heard Wednesday night in a viewing of the film.
From there, “Finding Kind,” a documentary by Lauren Parsekian and Molly Thompson, takes viewers on what the filmmakers described as an “emotional roller coaster.”
It follows the young women as they circled the United States on a month-and-a-half, eye-opening journey to get to the bottom of the often cruel and hurtful “girl world.”
Parsekian and Thompson were at McHenry High School – West Campus for Town Against Tragedy 3 and to show their documentary.
The pair, both 25, never intended to start an anti-bullying campaign, they said before the event. They simply wanted to look deeper into the female psyche to discover what makes women and girls be so hurtful to one another.
“Once we turned on the cameras, we saw how open and honest women and girls were being about their experiences,” Thompson said.
“Finding Kind” and the film’s sister nonprofit, The Kind Campaign, started gaining momentum and national media attention, and now the two women have traveled the country with their message. They estimate that in a short four years they’ve taken The Kind Campaign to 450 schools and the film has been shown in thousands more.
A group of students, now seniors, who saw “Finding Kind” at the Raue Center for the Arts in Crystal Lake, thought their classmates would benefit from a viewing and took the idea of bringing in the documentary and filmmakers to Assistant Principal Carl Vallianatos.
“We thought it’d be good for our school to see,” said Josie Hobbs, 17. “There’s a lot of girl-on-girl bullying [at our school]. Lots of girl fights.”
Boys could benefit from the film, too, Laura D’Angelo said.
“It gives guys an understanding of how we function and how guys can play a role in bullying,” the 17-year-old said, adding that boys often are at the root of conflicts between girls.
Lauren Lewandowski, 18, also helped bring the film to McHenry.
Girl-against-girl bullying is so universal that every woman Parsekian and Thompson interviewed for the film could recall either treating someone poorly or being on the receiving end of dirty looks, gossip, rumors, betrayal and hurtful words at the hands of other females.
“When we started out, no one was talking about this very specific thing that girls go through,” Thompson said. “It is seen as a rite of passage.”
According to a recent study by the Northwest Herald and the McHenry County Regional Office of Education, girl-on-girl bullying goes on here, too.
In a survey of county educators, 67 percent said girls have a greater tendency to bully, compared with 33 percent of boys. McHenry County school officials also said females are most likely to be targeted for bullying.
The film not only explores why girls wage “emotional warfare” against each other, but more importantly, how to stop it. Its answer is simple: Be kind, and choose kindness and respect over bullying and cruelty.
“If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say it. It’s such a simple concept,” Parsekian said.
Upcoming anti-bullying events
• Rachel’s Challenge event for parents and community, 7 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 11, Hannah Beardsley Middle School, 515 E. Crystal Lake Ave., Crystal Lake. Information: Principal Ron Ludwig, 815-477-5897.
• Film screenings of “Finding Kind,” 1 p.m. and 4 p.m. Sunday, Oct. 14, Cary-Grove High School auditorium, 2208 Three Oaks Road, Cary. Information: www.caryarealibrary.info or 847-639-4210.
• Don’t Kick Penguins, all-day anti-bullying seminar for teens, 9 a.m. to 1 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 20, McHenry County College, 8900 Route 14, Crystal Lake. Information: 815-236-2511.