Radius/ CNN
Reviewed for Shockya by Harvey Karten. Data-based on Rotten Tomatoes.
Grade:  B+
Director:  Kirby Dick
Screenwriter:  Kirby Dick
Cast:  Anna E. Clark, Andrea Pino, Kamilah Willingham, April Powell-Willingham, Erica Kinsman, Tom Seeberg
Screened at:  Review 2, NYC, 2/10/15
Opens:  February 27, 2015

I don’t get it.  When I went to Tufts University during the fifties, girls had curfews, co-ed dorms were considered pure folly, virginity was not the exception, and the fraternity houses served beer without date-rape drugs as the only beverage at parties.  Any student rapes must have been quite expertly hushed up because I had not heard of a single one, despite the relative unavailability of the women students.  Nowadays hookups are as frequent as long, dull professorial lectures, girls live with guys in the dorms (there are even co-ed bathrooms), and women are as likely as men to be sexually assertive.  Yet suddenly we hear of a rash of sexual violence, in almost all cases by college men against women.  In fact as we note from Kirby Dick’s documentary “The Hunting Ground,” twenty percent of college girls will be sexually assaulted during their four years on campus.  Think of that: twenty percent, one out of five.  As one of the spokespersons, Harvard Law instructor Diane L. Rosenfeld posits, if a college advertised that prospective students had a twenty percent chance of being the victim of a drive-by shooting, would any parent send a daughter or even a son to such a hall of academe?

Some parents already wonder whether their eighteen-year-old treasures will join the hook-up game—forget about dating. Now they have to worry that their precious daughters will be raped, and not by some street thugs with knives waiting for them in dark alleys, but by the highly selective male student bodies at Dartmouth, Harvard, University of North Carolina, Notre Dame, Yale, Swarthmore, Wesleyan, Yale, Columbia, and I hate to say it, at Tufts.

As the doc commences to the stately melodies of Guadeamus Igitur (So Let Us Rejoice), we soon leave the ivory tower to get down and dirty.  Not only is rape so rampant on campuses the 100,000 students are expected to be victims in 2015: only small percentages (twenty percent) of students even bother to report the assaults and those who do are frequently ignored or left hanging for a year or more before prosecutions take place. What’s more merely reporting a rape will result in a girl’s receiving the most vicious hate mail.  Why so?  Principally because college reputations are on the line, and alumni may hesitate before contributing if their institutions are considered sanctums of violence.  And if a football player is accused, say, Heisman Trophy winner Jameis Winston—who actually was named by one girl who waited months before the authorities collected his DNA sample—the accuser would be lucky to avoid a knife in the back.  Recently someone contributed $350 million to Harvard University.  Would his donation have been zero under these circumstances?

Though the film becomes repetitive as one girl after another cites tearful memories of being assaulted, then further violated when the suspects are not arrested as 74% are not, perhaps this very movie will serve as impetus for change just as “The Invisible War,” citing rapes in the U.S. military, may change the course for the better with our armed forces.  In fact California Senator Barbara Boxer states “…you’re going to see [changes] in response to this film.”  Maybe “The Hunting Ground” will be considered like the muckraking novels like Upton Sinclair’s 1906 work “The Jungle,” which led the Pure Food and Drug Administration to try to clean up the meatpacking plants, or Rachel Carson’s “The Silent Spring,” which alerted the country to the pollution in our rivers.

“The Hunting Ground” is hard-hitting enough to motivate the producers to advance the release date to February 27 from March 10 to seize upon the momentum now churning throughout the land against college assaults.

Unrated.  105 minutes.  © Harvey Karten, Member, New York Film Critics Online

Story – A-
Acting – B+
Technical – B+
Overall – B+

By Harvey Karten

Harvey Karten is the founder of the The New York Film Critics Online (NYFCO) an organization composed of Internet film critics based in New York City. The group meets once a year, in December, for voting on its annual NYFCO Awards.

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