The Hunting Ground (2015)
Director: Kirby Dick
Plot: The Hunting Ground takes a look at rape crimes in American college campuses and how the institutions deal this, and the devastating effect this has on the survivors of these horrible crimes. It follows the fight of Andrea Pino and Annie Clark to expose what is really happening.
After seeing Lady Gaga’s emotional performance of ‘Til It Happens to You’ at this year’s Academy Awards, I was one of the millions who was moved to see just where this emotion had come from. The Hunting Ground is an emotionally charged documentary that is convincing in its presentation of rape becoming an epidemic that is plaguing colleges all across America; an epidemic, it seems, that is being ignored. Rape crimes seem to be becoming a common part of college life in the US and, in The Hunting Ground, we hear it first hand from some brave survivors.
This documentary feature is the story of two girls, Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, both of whom are survivors trying to bring light to the facts about sexual assault and their mission to put a stop to the rape culture that has infiltrated what should be a haven for college students. Integrated with this, The Hunting Ground presents some highly emotional stories from survivors in colleges all across America, and at times this makes the movie difficult to watch but you can’t help but feel drawn in emotionally. Throughout the film we discover how it seems that the victims of these crimes have been silenced by the system, and even though this presentation is of course biased at times, it truly sheds light on how many colleges care more about their reputations than helping the students that have become victims of this truly awful crime. For example, an interviewed staff member confirmed that in order to ‘look good to potential new students’, the colleges simply ‘cannot appear to be an unsafe environment’ and therefore ‘many of the crimes are not reported to the police by the faculty’. Here’s an advanced warning: there are some scary statistics to back this up.
The only major criticism that can be levelled at The Hunting Ground is its slightly biased nature, though did not put me off personally. It seemed to generalise all colleges and paint them as evil institutions that did not care at all for their students, rather than highlighting and specifying that it was in this particular area that they had failed the victims of these crimes. I do understand why it comes across this way however, as the film is only an hour and a half long and the subject matter is perhaps too large for this, so the director Kirby Dick had to to make his point as effectively and powerfully as possible, especially considering the size of issue and the lack of knowledge regarding it.
After watching the film, I was curious to see what others thought of it, and I was surprised at how many negative comments there were with terms such as falsehood, feminist trash, and activist propaganda, all flying around. As a woman, this really hit a nerve. Many people were questioning the truth behind the story of a girl who was a victim to a guy who then went on to be a major college football player and was a number one pick in the NFL draft. Of course, I cannot vouch for how true the story is despite how I may have my opinions, but no matter how true that one story is or is not, what the film does is highlight the bigger picture and it is impossible to deny that there is a problem after watching The Hunting Ground. Awareness was the film’s main goal and it definitely succeeded in this.
For me, and I don’t know whether this is because I am a female viewer or just a generally empathetic human being, I found The Hunting Ground to be very relatable and even though I could never begin to imagine what these people have gone through, I could certainly feel a connection with what the overall film was trying to accomplish. The whole picture radiated a sense of community, just like the community that Annie and Andrea had built through their fight. The message is that no matter what you have gone through you are not alone. What made The Hunting Ground so effective was that it was respectful of its subject matter, it had an overwhelmingly powerful point to make, and it made the audience truly feel, just as any good documentary should.
Despite Lady Gaga’s performance of the movie’s original song being a moving addition to this year’s Oscars, the movie wasn’t quite as good as some of the nominated entries, including those that have been reviewed on this very site, hence The Hunting Ground is rated…