“THE HUNTING GROUND” My rating: B+
90 minutes | MPAA rating: PG-13
When they last teamed up in 2012, documentarists Kirby Dick and Amy Zierling gave us “The Invisible War,” a look at sexual assault in the military so damning it forced the Pentagon to review its procedures.
Now Dick and Zierling deliver “The Hunting Ground,” a study of rape on college campuses that should be mandatory viewing for teens and their parents.
But even as this film throws a spotlight on the problem of campus rape, it also explains why American colleges will have to be dragged kicking and screening to confront the issue.
The doc begins with footage of young people learning that they’ve been accepted by their first-choice universities. Tears of joy, high fives, back slaps and big hugs are in order.
For some the joy won’t last long. “The Hunting Ground” is filled with young women talking about being sexually assaulted — often even before their freshman classes have begun.
Dick and Ziering also interview a convicted campus rapist (allegedly reformed, his face is blurred) who discusses his methodology for locating, cultivating and attacking women.
The statistics presented here are horrifying. As many as 100,000 American women will be sexually assaulted on campus each year. And yet nearly half of all U.S. campuses report no rapes at all in any year. Something’s not right.
The film doesn’t suggest that all college men are rape crazy. These crimes are committed by no more than 4 percent of male students. Yet the reluctance of the schools to investigate rape allegations and expel the perpetrators means that this criminal 4 percent are usually repeat offenders.
This doc works superbly on several levels. First it lets these women tell their stories — and we find that overwhelmingly they have received no satisfaction from their administrations, which bury rape reports lest word get out that their campuses are unsafe. (One of the film’s subjects is a former college head of security who prematurely ended his career rather than be complicit in rape coverups.)
Campus rapes are rarely committed by strangers. “It’s the people you do know you’ve got to be worried about,” says one young woman.
Certain fraternities on certain campuses have earned reputations for drugging and sexually assaulting women at their parties. Several young women note that SAE stands both for Sigma Alpha Epsilon and “sexual assault expected.”
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