The campus rape epidemic is given a face, dozens of them in fact, in “The Hunting Ground,” director Kirby Dick’s sobering investigation into the systematic silencing of sexual assault victims which premiered Friday at the Sundance Film Festival.
Through an expert juxtaposition of personal accounts and damning statistics, the film paints a brutal picture of university administrators more concerned with keeping campus crime statistics low than helping the students who have come forward to report rape.
Dick and producer Amy Ziering explored sexual assault in the U.S. military in 2012′s “The Invisible War,” and were inspired to tackle the issue on college campuses after hearing from women at their university screenings.
“The Hunting Ground,” in theaters on March 20 and on CNN later this year, indicts a wide range of institutions for their lax punishments of reported rapists including Notre Dame, the University of Virginia, Swarthmore College, Stanford University, the University of Southern California, and others.
In a particularly revealing sequence, the paltry repercussions are listed by institution, including $25 fines and suspension over the summer.
Beyond the dizzying statistics and myriad talking heads, ranging from former campus police guards to clinical psychologists, the heart of the movie is rooted in the personal stories, whether it’s a father describing the rape of his daughter who committed suicide, or the assault victims themselves, some of whom are men.
Audiences see Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, both of whom were assaulted at the University of North Carolina, and subsequently ignored and belittled by their administrators, rally support around the country for their End Rape on Campus movement and filing a Title IX complaint against UNC.
The filmmaking may not be noteworthy, but it is the stories that are both illuminating and essential and will likely not leave a dry eye in the audience.