“The Hunting Ground,” was shown as part of Colgate’s Friday Night Film Series on Friday, September 4. Directed by Kirby Dick, this documentary is about the
rampant ongoing epidemic of sexual violence on college campuses. The film follows the struggle of two victims of rape on college campuses and strives to create a change in how sexual violence cases on campuses are treated. The film begins with a jovial tone, showing multiple scenes of women being accepted into their dream colleges. It then proceeds to show the exciting process of first-years moving into college, very reminiscent of moving into Colgate for the first time. This happy tone continues until one of the interviewees says she was raped in the first week. Dick’s introduction was well done, as it shows the excitement that women feel coming into college and how that initial excitement can horrifically shift into tragedy due to horrible events of this nature.
In “The Hunting Ground”, Dick exposes the hypocrisy of administrations that do little to help victims. This hypocrisy is explained through interviews with victims depicting how many college administrations would rather silence sexual violence than have their schools look bad, while claiming to treat the subject seriously. Administrators continue to bully and blame the victims of sexual violence, discouraging them from reaching out to the police for help. I wish I could say I didn’t believe what I was seeing. The interviews with the victims are effective in getting into the minds of those directly affected by sexual violence, as they are emotional and revealing – many citing student efforts to combat sexual violence dating back to 1979.
The film frustrated me as it showed the many perspectives of those trying to make a change. At one point a former university campus safety officer explains how the people he worked for would rather stay quiet than help the victims of sexual violence. What’s even more frustrating is the empty rhetoric that the administrations spew in response to allegations of hypocrisy. Apparently every college and university in the nation takes sexual assault on campus very seriously, yet the problem remains unsolved.
The documentary exposes the ring of corruption formed between college administrations and lucrative fraternities. Much of sexual violence on campus is committed by fraternity brothers due to the rape culture that forms unchecked in these close-knit organizations. Despite this, colleges would rather look the other way for fear that they would lose donations from alumni. Dick’s film also explains the even more powerful ring of corruption between college administrations and their more lucrative sports franchises. It highlights the most well-known example of administrative tyranny: the Jameis Winston case. It was evident that the money the former quarterback brought to Florida State University was more important than the ruined life of Erica Kinsman, as the college administration did its best to silence the rape.
Although this topic can be very discouraging, the film ends on a hopeful note, showing the increasing efforts to create change on campuses across the country. But it doesn’t allow you to feel complacent, as it intercuts the progress with examples of administrative failures. Altogether the film is well-paced, focused and emotional. At no point did I feel like the film was going for shock value or being sanctimonious. Kirby Dick directed a powerful documentary that everyone, especially college students, should see.