Based on the title, more than a few people are bound to think that The Hunting Ground is the latest thriller to hit the scene, perhaps starring an aging actor looking to regain his former glory. Instead, it’s an infuriating documentary that takes a deep look at something more chilling than anything Hollywood could dream up.
Directed by Kirby Dick (This Film Is Not Yet Rated, The Invisible War), the film tackles the issue of sexual assaults on college campuses. More specifically, it goes into great detail about how many colleges and universities do everything in their power to discourage the reporting of rapes in order to keep their schools more attractive for current and potential students.
Dick and his producing partner, Amy Ziering, interview a slew of women — and a few men — and their stories are distressingly similar. After their assaults, they approach people in their respective colleges’ administrations, assuming they can help file a report and catch the perpetrators. Instead, the victims receive a variety of unhelpful responses that essentially boil down to, “Wouldn’t it be best if you just forgot about it and moved on?”
Unsurprisingly, the biggest reason for this treatment is money. If universities were to be honest about the number of rapes and sexual assaults that occur on campuses — and none is immune — then they run the risk of being labeled “the rape college.” Instead of doing the right and moral thing, many colleges insulate themselves in order to keep alumni donations and new students rolling in.
Although the 90-minute film presents much to be angry about, Dick and Ziering do offer a sliver of hope. Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, two University of North Carolina students who were raped during their time there, have started End Rape on Campus, a crusade to hold universities responsible for non- or under-reporting of rapes.
Using Title IX, which ensures equal treatment for men and women at schools that receive federal funding, they’ve filed complaints at colleges across the United States in the hope that administrations will change their ways when faced with the possibility of losing money. Given that it’s such a huge undertaking, their quest is left mostly unresolved, but they do seem to have galvanized enough people to keep the issue at the forefront for years to come.
The Hunting Ground will leave you sad, enraged and dumbfounded about how some young women are still treated in this day and age. In other words, it does what any great documentary should: It inspires action.