Sundance Documentary The Hunting Ground Tackles Campus Rape


Campus rape is the subject of a new documentary, The Hunting Ground, which premiered at the Sundance Film Festival on Friday.

The film, from producer Amy Ziering and Oscar-nominated director Kirby Dick, features personal accounts and commentary from rape victims like UNC students Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, who recall being stonewalled by campus officials when trying to report a sexual assault. Erica Kinsman, the woman who accused FSU quarterback Jameis Winston of rape, also tells her story for the first time.

Reading about the crowd’s reactions to the film makes it clear that there’s still a disconnect between the prevalence of rape at universities and the awareness of such. People are still shocked at statistics, and in some cases, disbelieving. In their recap, The New York Times wrote that audience members “repeatedly gasped as student after student spoke on camera about being sexually assaulted — and being subsequently ignored or run through endless hoops by college administrators concerned about keeping rape statistics low.” Mashable also reports that people “audibly gasped at many of the documentary’s shameful statistics that flashed onscreen.”

Four women who participated in the documentary—which rightfully refers to campus rape as a “national problem”—attended the premiere. According to Mashable:

…this isn’t just the story of how insidious rape culture has become. Anyone who pays any attention to the news knows that already, and in that regard, the film doesn’t bring much new evidence to bear.
The emotional center of the film is, instead, a small handful of young women who, with scant resources and zero support outside of one other, used their collective wits — and a shrewd application of Title IX — to start a cascade of inquiry that ended in a Department of Education investigation of dozens of top schools.

The NYT further mentions the documentary’s indictment of frat culture and the ensuing university backlash that’s bound to come from it:

Along with institutions like Harvard, Notre Dame and the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, “The Hunting Ground” takes on the fraternity system — in particular, Sigma Alpha Epsilon — and even throws down a challenge of a sort for the National Football League with a not-so-subtle suggestion that teams should think twice about drafting one of the top college prospects, Jameis Winston.

From Mashable’s review:

The Hunting Ground is a capable and assured account of their ordeals and inspiring response, but the film itself doesn’t break much ground in chronicling the campus-rape epidemic, or the top administrators — 35 of whom refused to be interviewed, according to the credits — whose resistance allows it to go on.

The film will be released in theaters on March 20 and will also air on CNN.

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