The Hunting Ground, a documentary directed by Kirby Dick
A review by editor Shelley Timms
It’s not often that a film leaves me seething. The Hunting Ground, Kirby Dick’s 2015 documentary about college sexual assault, did just that.
I discovered this documentary while watching the 2016 Oscars, when Lady Gaga performed ‘Till It Happens to You’, which is the main song on The Hunting Ground soundtrack. It was also nominated for Best Song. The film follows two college students, Andrea Pino and Annie E. Clarke, and their endeavour to raise awareness about the prevalence of rape on college campuses in the US. Both girls were raped during their freshman year at college, as will an estimated 100 000 students per year (according to the documentary). They show a strength of character and determination that is truly commendable. They came forward with their stories of rape, and then took their university to court over the way they handled their cases. Interviews with a myriad of college students, both male and female, outline a culture of victim blaming and denial within American universities. According to the documentary, 1 in 5 women will be sexually assaulted while in college.
I believe The Hunting Ground achieved what it set out to do; anger people to the point where the trustworthiness of organisations such as universities are questioned, and raise awareness about just how common rape culture is in colleges.
Not often does a film shock me to the point where it will stay with me forever. Emotional, candid interviews with rape victims, as well as university staff that reveal their regrets for perpetuating rape culture add to the effectiveness of this film. Dick’s ability to present the facts, and add a face to those statistics, was what made the film so emotionally charged for me. The use of detailed accounts of personal stories allow the viewer to connect to the victims, and Dick has definitely created a documentary that will get people talking. Furthermore, I believe it will encourage other victims to come forward, which is something that Pino and Clarke discovered when they told their stories.
I loved this film, and I could go on and on as to why it was a truly amazing documentary. I look forward to seeing what Kirby Dick creates in the future.