The makers of The Invisible War, a documentary about the “epidemic of rape” of American soldiers within the military, have produced a new film about rape, this time addressing the hot topic of “rape culture” on university campuses. The film is set to be released soon in theaters and broadcast by CNN.
Writer/director Kirby Dick’s The Hunting Ground debuted at Sundance last week to much celebration in the media, with the New York Times presenting it as a potentially game-changing documentary. As NYT notes, a U.S. Senator, Barbara Boxer (D-CA), has even weighed in on the film, giving her official endorsement and promising that it would lead to changes:
“The power on that status quo side, you’re going to see it in response to this film,” said Boxer. “Believe me, there will be fallout.”
The film includes interviews with alleged rape victims, including the accuser of Heisman-winning quarterback and potential number one NFL draft pick Jameis Winston. Despite her case being dismissed multiple times and no formal charges ever having been brought against Winston, the film gives his accuser Erica Kinsman the floor to lay out her accusations. The NYT notes that the film “makes a mockery” of Florida State’s investigation into the accusation.
Though one of the film’s premises is the institutional protection of the “campus rape culture” by universities across the country, no university officials appear on the film to defend the actions of their institutions. Dick says their lack of representation falls on them, however, as he gave the presidents of all six universities featured the opportunity to appear in the film. “All of them passed or did not respond at all,” said Dick. He also said that his team contacted 35 other schools for interviews but all either didn’t respond or “passed on the interviews”
Below is the summary of the film via Sundance. (Note: The summary’s claim that “one in five women in college are sexually assaulted” was recently debunked by an extensive Department of Justice study. The DOJ study shows the real ratio is more like 1 per 53.)
The statistics are staggering. One in five women in college are sexually assaulted, yet only a fraction of these crimes are reported, and even fewer result in punishment for the perpetrators. From the intrepid team behind The Invisible War, comes The Hunting Ground, a piercing, monumental exposé of rape culture on campuses, poised to light a fire under a national debate.
In a tour de force of verité footage, expert insights, and first-person testimonies, the film follows undergraduate rape survivors pursuing both their education and justice, despite ongoing harassment and the devastating toll on them and their families. Scrutinizing the gamut of elite Ivies, state universities, and small colleges, filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering reveal an endemic system of institutional cover-ups, rationalizations, victim-blaming, and denial that creates perfect storm conditions for predators to prey with impunity. Meanwhile, the film captures mavericks Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, survivors who are taking matters into their own hands—ingeniously employing Title IX legal strategy to fight back and sharing their knowledge among a growing, unstoppable network of young women who will no longer be silent. —C.L.
This article has been updated.