‘The Hunting Ground’: A calm dissertation on a campus outrage
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Many colleges and universities condone students raping other students, claims filmmaker Kirby Dick in “The Hunting Ground.” His new documentary enrages, yet makes its case in an even-tempered manner.
Kirby begins with ecstatic shots of young women learning they got admitted to college. The end credits list 31 institutions of higher learning that lent their promotional videos to Kirby. He also notes that leaders at 40-plus campuses refused him interviews.
“The Hunting Ground” revisits terrain covered in “The Invisible War.” In that 2012 documentary, Kirby and his producer Amy Ziering exposed endemic sexual assault in the U.S. military. Raped women in uniform suffer more PTSD than men in combat. America’s armed forces are like its colleges: Rape is treated as a mere image problem.
In both films the refrain of interviewed survivors is that institutional responses were worse than the rapes. Kirby tallies reports of rapes at private colleges and state universities with consequences, if any, for the accused. Penalties can be a $25 fine, turning in a paper or the senseless “expulsion upon graduation.”
Among the alarming statistics on sexual assault: “One in five college women will be sexually assaulted” and “Only 5 percent of campus assaults are reported.”
The more income a school gets from sports broadcasters, the bigger the problem. Male athletes are privileged on campus and commit a disproportionate number of the rapes there. Fraternity members — one house sports a sign reading “Thank you for your daughters” — are three times more apt to rape than their male classmates.
To lessen viewer exasperation, Kirby and Ziering observe survivors-turned-activists who cross the country. Their tactic is to sue schools receiving federal funds by violating Title IX amendments that “prohibit discrimination on the basis of sex.” Despite 82 investigations under way, there’s no evidence it will do any good.
RADiUS-TWC presents a film written and directed by David Robert Mitchell. Running time: 100 minutes. Rated R (for disturbing violent and sexual content including graphic nudity, and language). Opening Friday at Landmark Century Centre.