Kirby Dick’s 2015 documentary, The Hunting Ground, addresses a controversial topic featured heavily in the press as of recent years, and yet one impossible to speak out against enough: rape on college campuses, focusing particularly on cases at American colleges and universities and the lack of support those institutions have provided their students after experiencing sexual assault.
This documentary follows the experiences of several victims, interspersed with clips from interviews with administrative professionals and other related authorities detailing particular cases as well as the work of sexual assault survivors, Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, to help raise awareness and provide support for victims who need someone to turn to.
The structure of this documentary allowed for the inclusion of many perspectives, including representatives of several of the universities, male victims and a sole male perpetrator who had served time for sexual assault. The documentary team also seek to make it clear that not all victims are young women, as well as that not all men should be demonised. They focused instead on the most common of perpetrators in college rape cases: the repeat offender, often, though not exclusively, involved with Greek life and college athletics.
This documentary tackles controversial and challenging material. At moments, the accounts of the women and men who were so inhumanely treated by their peers in a place that claims to be a safe space was painful to listen to.
Cinematically speaking, this film was well edited, melding together a wide variety of clips for an aesthetically appealing and moving effect. The narrative flowed nicely from one case to the next, addressing cases across the country.
My only complaint regards the soundtrack, which heavily features pop artists. Though the song clips included only briefly appear, when present, they weigh artificially thickly. The remainder of the soundtrack is typical collegiate pomp processionals, music eerily familiar to me, which I found to be more emotionally powerful than the pop tunes.
As a current college student attending one of the universities under investigation for their mishandling of rape cases, this documentary hit very close to home. The amount of anger and frustration I felt knowing that this could quite easily be me, or one of my friends, or the kid I sit next to in class, is infuriating and disheartening. This documentary exposes a darker side to the educational system and provides a fantastic platform to continue the discussion on this issue.