Stay in school, kids. Or at home is fine, too.
Going to college, for most people, is an exciting time. It’s a place that they’ve been studying hard for practically the past five or six years and now that it’s finally here, they can’t wait but to just soak it all up. From the classes, to the teachers, to the fellow students, and especially to the party-scene, college is a magical place where everyone can find themselves and be inspired to do what it is that they want to do for the rest of their lives. However, it’s also a place that, especially for women, can be a very traumatic, disturbing time as well. It is estimated that nearly 20% of college females will be raped in their college years and through countless other stats, interviews with real life subjects who have been sexually assaulted, and several department-heads of colleges, we start to get a bigger picture of what’s really going on. Because, it isn’t just the rape that’s the only problem at hand here, it’s also the institutions themselves who, for their own self-interest, whether it be for donations, for sports, or for public reputation, throw these rape cases away, hoping that they’ll just eventually dissipate into thin air, as if they never happened in the first place. Problem is, they did happen and it’s about time that somebody did something about it.
A few years ago, with the Invisible War, Kirby Dick showed what it was like to be apart of something as distinguished and respectable as the United States Military, and to have been a victim of sexual assault. That movie, even till this day infuriates the hell out of me; not just because people are being raped to begin with (which is a huge problem that needs to stop, ASAP), but because of how every rape case is handled. Rather than actually setting out and stopping the perpetrators from possibly committing the same act again, the Army would much rather settle everything out of court, blame the issue on the victim, act as if it never happened, was just a common mistake, and move on.
And to be truly honest, college itself is no different from the Army in that general regard.
While the Hunting Ground may not be as powerful as the Invisible War was, there’s still something that hits very close to home that makes it all the more sad, disturbing, and most of all, enraging. That nobody involved with these colleges is doing anything to stop these rapes from happening by either, punishing the perpetrator in an effective manner, or making it so that these crimes continue to be reported, will make you heart pound and blood boil. Dick understands this, sees this and never steps away from this fact; that these rapes can be stopped by a simple procedure of kicking that student out and making their presences known, is what’s all the more upsetting.
But through it all, Dick never forgets that this movie is, first and foremost, about the subjects here who, sadly and unfortunately, been through a sexual abuse at the hands of people who are, quite frankly, sick and twisted imbeciles. No matter how dark or disturbing the stories may be, Dick realizes that it’s the courage of these subjects who make this movie work and matter most; without them, he would have just a bunch of stats that don’t really prove any point, but crunch numbers in an annoying, slightly vague manner. Dick knows that in order to get his point across in an effective way, he needs to have as many stories as humanly possible, just to get his point further across about how rape, in and of the act itself, is an epidemic that needs to be stopped.
What’s most disappointing about this fact is that it can be easily done.
All it takes is for a teacher, or a disciplinarian, or someone higher-up in the college, to speak up, say something and demand that a just punishment be made. However, as the movie shows us, it’s not so easy for every person involved with the university to just do such a thing, and not expect to reprimanded right away. For one, some of these figures may lose their jobs, as well as their tenure. This, altogether with the fact that the institution wants to keep that pretty picture alive and well for the rest of the outside world to see, is genuinely upsetting, but it’s sadly the reality in which we live in. Rape occurs, and rather than punishing those who initiate it, they all go after the victim and put all of the blame on them.
Once again, this is just one of the many points that Dick brings to light in the Hunting Ground. While it may not be his most powerful, or effective work he’s ever done, it doesn’t matter, because the movie still gets its point across and asks for there to be justice for those who need it the most: the Victims. That nobody is looking out for them, or has their best interest in mind, really makes the world of college as a whole, especially screwy. Colleges will never go extinct, but if they do continue to act up and not change their ways, they may be in fear of losing many possible students. Some parents will not want to send their kids away to a school that allows such heinous, vile acts like rape, and they especially won’t send their kids away to a school where instead of being embraced for bringing it up to the people who matter, the victims are wrongfully persecuted, left to be made an example of, and, in most cases, told to leave the school because of the hostile situation they’ve created.
This is all malarkey and you know what? It’s about time that it was put to an end, immediately.
Consensus: While not his best, Kirby Dick’s the Hunting Ground is still a powerful, generally upsetting documentary that points fingers at the problem of rapes on campuses, shows that there’s justice to be done, and asks why it hasn’t yet, to the people who most deserve to hear those same questions.
8.5 / 10
Photos Courtesy of: Indiewire