It is relatively easy to move through the day without acknowledging the more disturbing and horrific trends that creep into society, and it could be argued that this natural tendency to follow the path of least resistance is at least part of the reason why those trends continue to creep. Fortunately, documentary filmmakers are prepared to lift those especially gnarly rocks and shine a light on the murky proceedings underneath, and that is what we have in The Hunting Ground.
Writer-director Kirby Dick has made a lengthy career of confronting those issues that many avoid. 2006’s This Film Is Not Yet Rated examined the questionable policies of the American movie ratings board, 2009’s Outrage looked at “closeted politicians” who lobby for anti-gay legislation in America, and most recently, 2012’s The Invisible War cast an uncompromising gaze on the issue of the rape of soldiers in the American military. It is in this same vein that Dick approaches what some would consider an extension of that subject matter – the high levels of rape on American university campuses.
“From the team behind The Invisible War, comes a startling expose of rape crimes on U.S campuses, institutional cover-ups and the brutal social toll on victims and their families. Weaving together verite footage and first-person testimonies, the film follows survivors as they pursue their education while fighting for justice – despite harsh retaliation and pushback at every level.”
As seen in the trailer, this makes for shocking viewing. It is unfortunate to note the timeliness of the film – given the increased profile this issue has achieved in the news recently, with more and more victims becoming more and more vocal – as Dick investigates the campus policies that would appear to favour the perpetrator over the victim, and the patriarchal structure over the wellbeing of women, all in the name of the mighty dollar. It seems, however, to be essential viewing for exactly the same reasons.
The Hunting Ground premieres at the Sundance Film Festival this week, and is released in theatres on March 20th 2015.