There are a lot of ways that “The Hunting Ground” echoes “The Invisible War,” director and writer Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s last documentary. Both are films that expose the ugly side of celebrated institutions, with “The Hunting Ground” taking on star universities and “The Invisible War” confronting the U.S. military. Both lay bare the banality of sexual violence that occurs within these institutions, and together show us how the institutions are complicit, arguably. Instead of helping the victims, universities are shown to be more intent on silencing and blaming the victims and keeping their crime statistics low.
“The Hunting Ground” is compiled by first-person testimonies of sexual assault survivors, their family members, and other professionals who have dealt with instances of campus rape first hand. The many survivors come from different schools spread across the U.S., but their stories share the same common denominator: all of these survivors, female and male, experienced sexual violence while they were university students, and all of them faced rejection, indifference, and castigation when they reported their cases to the school or the police.
One of the main threads of the film tracks the story of Annie Clark and Andrea Pino, co-founders of the organization End Rape on Campus and two of the main complainants who filed a federal complaint against their university, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, when the university ignored their reports of sexual assault. By showing their story and the efforts they had made at preventing sexual violence on campus, “The Hunting Ground” puts a face of incredible strength and endurance on an issue that is not only disturbing but also too often ignored.
“The Hunting Ground” opens in theaters on February 27th, 2015.