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Thursday, February 26, 2015


A college campus in THE HUNTING GROUND
Courtesy of RADiUS

2015, 90 minutes
Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material involving sexual assault, and for language

Review by Joshua Handler

Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering's searing The Hunting Ground is a timely, disturbing, unnerving documentary.  It's a film that is as horrifying as it is necessary.  Tackling the wrenching subject of college campus sexual assault, Dick and Ziering stare their subject right in the face and through dozens of hard, honest interviews, create a film that will move just about everyone who sees it to action.

College campus sexual assault is an epidemic that everyone knows about.  But while college campus sexual assault is something that everyone knows happens, very few talk about for various reasons.  Campus sexual assault is hard to tackle for many reasons, not least being the fact that most go unreported.  And, when reported to schools, the schools frequently don't take appropriate action.  This is why Dick and Ziering come in.

Dick and Ziering want to make sure that their subjects have a voice.  It's a testament to Dick and Ziering that their interviewees trusted them enough to discuss their experiences with sexual assault in as much detail as they do.  The interviews are the reason to see The Hunting Ground.  Dick and Ziering covered every base they could by interviewing college-age women who have been raped, college-age men who have been raped (this should've been discussed in more detail), and even many former college administrators.  Viewing these raw interviews is heartbreaking, infuriating, and jaw-dropping.  The experience of sexual assault is a topic that most do not want to discuss, but those interviewed in The Hunting Ground are courageous enough to stare it down and speak out.

Almost as damning and unsettling as the aforementioned interviews are the ones with former college administrators.  Listening to these individuals admit that their colleagues did nothing about numerous reported sexual assaults to save their name or the name of their school is almost as tragic as listening to the men and women recounting their sexual assaults.  Dick and Ziering take aim at a few institutions in particular and take them down swiftly.  The University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill and the University of Notre Dame, along with a few fraternities are given much of the film's focus due to their terrible records with covering up sexual assaults.

Overall, while The Hunting Ground isn't the most amazing documentary from a technical standpoint, it is a must-see for its important subject matter and brutally honest interviews.  Dick and Ziering never look down upon or judge their interviewees, but rather, they treat them with the respect that they deserve, and in doing so, they have created an essential documentary that should be required viewing for everyone.


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