Over a year after the premiere of The Hunting Ground, this documentary’s insight into the darker side of American college culture is doubly relevant. Kirby Dick’s film reveals not only the regularity of rapes on campus, but how institutions value their own survival over the wellbeing of their students. With shocking clarity, The Hunting Ground unfolds how fraternities and sporting teams contribute to an attitude of masculine entitlement, how perpetrators are protected and how victims are ignored and implicitly encouraged not to report.
The Brock Turner case is a telling example of this film’s argument, with rapists’ sporting prowess prioritised over their victims’ ordeals by the judicial system. The way that case has captured public attention is demonstrative of Dick’s more optimistic conclusion: that activism, driven by personal narratives, has the opportunity to change society. In the wake of films like The Hunting Ground and cases like Stanford’s, one hopes universities will approach their on-campus culture with more sensitivity.
The documentary is more interested in activism than artistic expression, using familiar formal elements – countless talking heads, stock footage, shocking statistics – to convey its message. But if activism is measured by how angry it makes the viewer, it’s an unquestionable success.