‘Bama Rush’ Documentary Reaction – The New York Times

Last 12 months, as rumors of a secret documentary swirled on the University of Alabama in Tuscaloosa, many college students collaborating in sorority recruitment had been on excessive alert.

There was discuss of a movie crew on campus. More dramatically, there have been unfounded whispers that some potential new sorority members — recognized, in Greek-speak, as P.N.M.s — had been sporting hid microphones to seize what went on behind closed doorways.

It turned out the rumors had been solely partly true. There was certainly a documentary being made throughout the recruitment interval, higher often called rush, however nobody who went by way of it was sporting a hidden machine to file secret rituals.

Rush on the University of Alabama turned an international sensation in 2021, when TikTok movies gave folks from all over the world an inside view of the annual occasion and its hush-hush traditions.

“Bama Rush” was launched Tuesday on Max. Directed by Rachel Fleit, it follows 4 University of Alabama college students from their preparations in the summertime of 2022 to bid day, once they discover out if they’ve been invited to affix a sorority. (Warning: Light spoilers forward.)

Working together with her workforce, Ms. Fleit, who directed the 2021 documentary “Introducing, Selma Blair,” discovered her topics by looking out social media for incoming college students who deliberate to hurry.

She stated she wrote to them and informed them: “Listen, I want to make a 360-degree view on the sorority system at the University of Alabama. I really want to center around the experiences of what it means to be a young woman right now. We’re going to tackle all of the big topics that you are up against.”

“That included a lot of the topics that came up in the film,” she stated, together with “body image, sexual assault, feminism, comparing and competition between young women.”

Ms. Fleit added that nobody was paid to take part within the documentary, and the movie crew didn’t file inside sorority homes. She additionally tried to ensure her presence didn’t change the standard rush course of, she stated, as she sought to “make a very quiet, very honest, very intimate portrait.”

The rumors of hidden microphones had been “false,” Ms. Fleit stated. She added that she “felt for” the scholars who had been caught up in them.

Marina Anderson, 19, was one of many younger ladies whose lives had been affected by campus rumors. She stated she was dismissed from rush in August after being wrongly accused of sporting a microphone. What induced suspicion, Ms. Anderson stated, was a black hair tie she had wrapped across the again of her shirt to make it match higher.

Despite her repeated denials, a few of her friends refused to consider she was not collaborating within the documentary, calling her “HBO girl” for months. (Those accusations got here whereas Max was nonetheless often called HBO Max. The platform underwent a rebranding on Tuesday.)

“It was so uncomfortable,” Ms. Anderson stated. “I had people recording me in public. It really messed me up my freshman year.” She added that she had come to get pleasure from her time at school and was excited to return as a sophomore within the fall.

Ms. Anderson, who was not interviewed for “Bama Rush,” watched the documentary shortly after it appeared on Max on Tuesday. Watching it was “bittersweet,” she stated. In basic, she discovered the movie “anticlimactic,” saying that finally it “wasn’t about Alabama rush,” however slightly the private struggles of the ladies featured in it.

Ms. Anderson added that she had sometimes questioned what she might need missed out on due to the microphone paranoia. “I think the main thing is just that rumors are really dangerous,” she stated.

Grant Sikes, one other scholar who rushed in 2022, echoed these sentiments. Ms. Sikes, who turned a popular figure on TikTok due to the movies she posted throughout rush, stated she felt “let down” by the movie. Compared with the dramatic trailer — which proclaimed, “This documentary could be the end of Greek life as we know it” — the completed product fell quick, she stated.

“Nothing they talked about wasn’t already known or something you couldn’t Google yourself,” Ms. Sikes, 20, stated. “It wasn’t a documentary about Bama Rush whatsoever! It was a documentary about a couple of girls and their life.”

“A lot of people were really hoping this would uncover things so change could happen,” she continued, including that she wished “Bama Rush” had extra deeply explored themes like racism, homophobia, fatphobia and hazing.

During rush, rumors circulated that Ms. Sikes was a “documentary plant,” she stated, a falsehood that she believes might have affected her rush probabilities.

“Why would a chapter want to even speak with me if they thought that I was the plant?” Ms. Sikes, who’s nonbinary, stated. “I was like, ‘Do you honestly think I was sent here to blend in with a bunch of blond hot chicks? Like, come on.’”

By the top of the method, she was not invited to affix any sorority, having been dropped by most homes early on. Ms. Fleit reached out to Ms. Sikes in August in regards to the movie, in line with DMs reviewed by The New York Times. The pair by no means spoke, and Ms. Sikes was not concerned within the movie.

Only two of the individuals who seem within the movie efficiently joined a sorority. One of them stopped participating within the movie as soon as rush started.

On TikTok, some viewers have criticized Ms. Fleit’s inclusion of her personal expertise with alopecia and sporting a wig as a plot level within the movie. “I really hate how the director of ‘Bama Rush’ made this about her,” one person wrote in a video.

The director defended her resolution to make herself a part of the story.

“In order for me to express the empathy that I had for what these young women were up against,” Ms. Fleit stated, “I needed to stand shoulder to shoulder with them and say, ‘You know what? Me, too. This is what I did to belong.’”

Audio produced by Adrienne Hurst.

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