The Hunting Ground (2015)

hunting ground poster college rape documentary
8.5 Overall Score

Shocking look at the situation but also the cover-up

Unbalanced at points

Movie Info

Movie Name:  The Hunting Ground

Studio:  The Weinstein Company

Genre(s):  Documentary

Release Date(s):  January 23, 2015 (Sundance Film Festival)/February 27, 2015 (US)

MPAA Rating:  PG-13


Two girls making a difference

An epidemic exists on college campus that has been breeding and continuing for decades and decades.  The college rape culture and the institutions that protect it are now under fire as rape victims begin to realize their voices can be heard and start to step forward with more frequency.  Despite the newly drawn attention, the crisis continues and what might be even more upsetting than the horrible acts themselves are the officials within the schools keeping them quiet.

Directed by Kirby Dick, The Hunting Ground is a study of the rape situation on college campuses.  The film premiered at Sundance in 2015 and received critical acclaim, but also received some criticism for questions involving some of the interviews and accusations.  The documentary received an Oscar nomination for Best Original Song for “Til It Happens to You” by Lady Gaga.

When I was in college, rape wasn’t really talked about much, but I am certain it was happening.  It was a small liberal arts college, high Greek percentage, and a heavy drinking culture.  It makes you wonder what was going on that people might not have talked about.


Crab legs are the least of his problems…

The Hunting Ground provides victim after victim of sexual assault.  It is true that you are only hearing one side of the story, but in most cases, the filmmakers smartly picked people who seemed very credible and provided a wide assortment of stories from frat parties, to bars, to sports.

These stories are upsetting, but in my opinion, what is more upsetting is the official response to them.  It takes courage to go forward with rape charges and in the cases presented by the film, the authorities and schools shut down the cases most likely due to alumni and reputation fears.  The trickiest story in the movie involves rape accusations against NFL quarterback Jameis Winston which was highly publicized around the nation.  The idea of bringing charges against a player who is going to be making millions in the NFL and brings in titles to the school shows the problem outright.  It often comes down to a he-said/she-said situation, and here the “he-said” is being protected by so many people that a trial and the true story will never be heard in a court.  This case was settled out of court which helps the victim financially but also keeps Jameis Winston name and the university clear.


A retired officer confirms the problem

The underdeveloped part of the story is one of the things that is still remaining hidden on campuses and that is male-rape.  The movie tries to cover it best they can by talking to a few victims, but the situation is even more stigmatized and taboo that getting people to talk about it is hard…leading to the documentary feeling a bit unbalanced by mentioning this necessary aspect of campus rape.  Percentage wise, female rape is much higher, but male rape (generally by other males) does happen.

The Hunting Ground throws some shocking numbers at the viewers’ faces and worse than that it shows a lot of the people ignoring it.  One of the better interviews in the documentary is a retired Notre Dame security guard who said it was so frustrating dealing with the university in cases of rape because nothing would ever get done.  The documentary would have benefited from more former officials like him coming forward to talk, but it was good for the movie to use itself as a platform for some of the victims to speak about their attacks and hopefully get others to come forward if there is any hope of making a change.

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Author: JPRoscoe View all posts by
Follow me on Twitter/Instagram/Letterboxd @JPRoscoe76! Loves all things pop-culture especially if it has a bit of a counter-culture twist. Plays video games (basically from the start when a neighbor brought home an Atari 2600), comic loving (for almost 30 years), and a true critic of movies. Enjoys the art house but also isn't afraid to let in one or two popular movies at the same time.

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