What We’re Watching: ‘The Hunting Ground’

This post was written by Hatchet reporter Riley Londres.

★★★★✰

“The Hunting Ground” left me speechless, but at the same time, I wanted to shout out in rage. The 103-minute film is a shocking, emotionally charged account of the prevalence of sexual violence on college campuses.

Promotional poster for "The Hunting Ground."
Promotional poster for “The Hunting Ground.”

In the documentary, dozens of college students are interviewed about reports that may have been brushed under the rug to ensure schools maintain a reputation for being safe. That’s to encourage future high school seniors to apply or keep key sports players from sitting on the sidelines.

It begins with footage of high school seniors’ reactions to acceptances from the schools of their dreams followed by shots of various welcome weeks from campuses across the United States.

But the hopeful tone is quickly sobered by the introduction of two students from the University of North Carolina, Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, who share the first of many testimonies that make the documentary so compelling.

The riveting film, written and directed by Kirby Dick, follows Pino and Clark, survivors of sexual assault, and includes intense interviews with other survivors, parents, professors and even a convicted rapist.

Pino and Clark endeavor to make their school, the University of North Carolina, as well as colleges and universities across the country, take the crime of rape more seriously. Interviewees lament that the financial incentives for institutions to cover up rape reports is a greater than the motivations to protect students.

As the New York Times noted, the documentary is largely one-sided, though that could be because many university officials declined to be interviewed.

During the screening at E Street Cinema, the audience’s collective distress was palpable. One member of the audience scoffed at the screen at points. No one moved until the last credit rolled.

The film ends with footage of recent marches and protests on campuses across the country to show that sexual violence is now an issue that prompts students to demand change. The final message is that victims can become survivors, and from there they can become activists, but there is more work to be done.

“The Hunting Ground” is playing at Landmark E Street Cinema, 555 11th St. NW.

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