REVIEW: “The Hunting Ground” shocks, portrays a sobering reality for victims of sexual abuse on college campuses

Directed by Kirby Dick, director of “The Invisible War”, “The Hunting Ground” is a documentary that brings to light the tragedy of on-campus sexual assaults and the prevalence of rape culture. One in five women are sexually assaulted in college, and the documentary sheds light on how little institutions do little to protect victims. The movie is centered on how two students, Andrea Pino and Annie Clark from the University of North Carolina Chapel Hill, who created a movement to bring survivors of campus assaults; and helped to educate about how to use Title IX to fight against institutions that refused to take action and protect their students.

The movie exposes how institutions are first and foremost businesses, who have to protect their reputation in order to impress prospective students and donors. It exposes the twisted world of institutions where fraternities, sports, alumni donations dictate the response to allegations of a sexual assault. Victims are often treated horribly by the institution, since the institution knows that if they wait a few years, the student will graduate and the case will effectively blow over.

The movie centers on student testimony, including heartbreaking stories of victims experiences and also incorporates how the ordeals affected their families, all adding to the emotional heaviness of the film. The movie sometimes feels like an episode of Law & Order: SVU, but this sort of dramatization is entirely necessary to convey the intensity of the situation. What’s missing is a solution other than spreading the word about this epidemic, though that is crucial in order to ensure justice for victims. Additionally, a more explicit explanation for how rape and rape culture can be prevented and dismantled from an early stage, in high school, popular media, etc, would provide a way for movie-goers to take action in their own lives and the lives of those around them.

“The Hunting Ground” is now playing at the Embarcadero Center Cinema.