The Hunting Ground opens with actual footage of high school seniors opening acceptance letters from their dream schools. It's one of the few hopeful moments in the entire film. Kirby Dick's documentary on campus rape features all the deeply troubling statistics and expert talking heads you'd expect of such an endeavor, but having a rough sense of how few of these cases result in actual punishment for clear-cut offenders is a far cry from actually witnessing the human consequences of institutional inaction. Forget prosecution; the vast majority of college perpetrators don't even get expelled, including cases with verbal or written confessions.
Victim-blaming runs rampant, often thanks to unhelpful administrators tasked by their superiors with protecting the institution's interests first and the victims' second. Dick eventually shifts his focus to a group of students who take their well-being into their own hands by forming a support group that educates other victims on how to file Title IX complaints against their schools, and it's here that a chance of resolution finally appears. The filmmakers take a restrained, standard-issue approach that feels attuned to the interviewees' traumatizing experiences while also being limiting -- the subject matter may not lend itself to an overtly ambitious aesthetic, but a film about individuals who refuse to be silenced could stand to take a few more chances itself.
Director: Kirby Dick
Writer: Kirby Dick
Cast: Diane Rosenfeld, Caroline Heldman, Kirby Dick, Amy Ziering and Amy Herdy