Screening at 7 p.m. and 8 p.m. today, Edina Cinema, 3911 W. 50th St. Edina. Tickets are free except for reserved seating. Seats can be reserved by calling the box office.

Teen's documentary questions 'Minnesota Nice'

  • Article by: KIM McGUIRE
  • Star Tribune
  • July 24, 2012 - 3:32 PM

Alec Fischer's classmates began calling him gay when he was in middle school. What spurred those rumors, Fischer surmises, was the fact he was active in choir and theater.

The bullying didn't stop there. And Fischer's friends faced far worse harassment, he said. Some even considered suicide.

As a way to fight back, Fischer, who graduated in June from Edina High School, created "Minnesota Nice?" -- a documentary film that features interviews with students across the state, most of whom have been victims of bullying.

"My goal with the film was for it to be all student interviews, because that's a perspective you don't normally get," said Fischer, who plans to attend the University of Wisconsin-Milwaukee in the fall. "I think it made it more powerful."

The film, which will screen tonight at Edina Cinema, debuted in June and has been shown to about 1,200 students at Edina High School. If Fischer has his way, schools across Minnesota will show the 45-minute film as part of bullying-prevention efforts.

"Bullying isn't necessarily worse here," Fischer said of Minnesota. "The fact we have ineffective policies is the worst part."

Fischer, 18, who's been making films since he was in eighth grade, interviewed dozens of students who say they have been bullied, from a teen with a fascination for Barney the dinosaur to several young men and women who are gay or bisexual.

He also interviews Brittany Ehmke, sister of Rachel Ehmke of Mantorville, Minn., who committed suicide in April by hanging herself. An official investigation into the death ruled that the bullying Rachel endured at school played a role in her death.

In the film, Brittany Ehmke describes her father's unsuccessful attempts to revive her sister and how the family sat with Rachel for hours before all of her organs failed.

Fischer said that interview is one he'll never forget.

"It was emotional. I was overwhelmed with the impact of her story," he said.

Despite tragic stories like Ehmke's, Fischer said he believes Minnesota teens have the power to stop bullying. For his part, he'll be distributing the film to schools for free and working to arrange more screenings.

"Minnesota has this reputation of being nice," Fischer said. "But spend a week walking the halls of schools and you will hear things that are truly disgusting."

Kim McGuire • 612-673-4469

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