The gripping film chronicles college sexual assault survivors’ struggle for justice.
The Hunting Ground opens in select theaters this weekend. With this unflinching expose, sexual assault on college campuses gets the film treatment it deserves—a piercing, in-depth, journalistic look at the terror so many survivors face when coming forward.
It’s the first time that campus assault has been confronted this way on film. The Hunting Groundblends raw footage with first-person testimonies, following real survivors and their families as they cope with retaliation, harassment, pushback and university efforts to downplay and deny assaults.
It introduces America to two authentic heroes: survivors Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, who developed the strategy of using Title IX legislation to fight back.
Filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering are known for their powerful chronicles of sexual assault: They recently helmed Oscar-nominated The Invisible War, a searing investigation into the rape epidemic within the U.S. military. That film won the Audience Award at the 2012 Sundance Film Festival, the 2012 Independent Spirit Award for Best Documentary, and the 2014 Emmy Award for Best Documentary and Outstanding Investigative Journalism.
Ziering recently explained the impetus for the movie to Vice: “It’s a problem of people not understanding. Certainly on campuses. The common conception right now, even with all the press, is he said, she said. It’s ‘sloppy sex,’ it’s ‘hookups gone bad.’ I think our film radically shifts the perspective and says, ‘Actually, no. It’s a highly calculated, premeditated crime.’”
Activists like Ali Safran are hailing the The Hunting Ground as a game-changer, not only as validation for survivors but also as an educational tool for the public. Safran, a rape crisis counselor, runs Surviving in Numbers, a nonprofit awareness campaign that lets sexual and domestic violence survivors share their stories anonymously, which she turns into posters on college campuses.
“The majority of the public doesn’t understand why colleges handle rape cases. They assume the police should handle them, if things are so bad—but schools can support students in a way that police can’t. Colleges can help a survivor change dorms or classes,” she explains.
The campus angle also crystallizes the society’s interpretation of assault across ages and cultures. “Campuses are microcosms of our larger society and sexual assault’s perception,” she says. “I hope that through this film people have a better understanding that not all survivors look a certain way, I hope that schools take notice, and I hope that survivors remember they deserve safety and justice. The issue is so pervasive that people might not actively think about it.”
With The Hunting Ground, they will. The film premieres in select cities nationwide; visit The Hunting Ground online to find movie times in your area and watch the trailer below: