Review: 'Hunting Ground' hard look at sexual assualt

Adam Graham
The Detroit News

"The Hunting Ground" takes a hard look at a disquieting issue: the prevalence of rapes and sexual assaults on America's college campuses.

Filmmaker Kirby Dick lays out the issue by talking to victims, who often find themselves discouraged from reporting the attacks by campus police and school administrators. Dick — whose 2012 documentary about sexual assaults in the U.S. military, "The Invisible War," was nominated for an Oscar — follows the dismissals and cover-ups all the way up the chain of command and finds the university system, and the massive amounts of money that flow into it, at fault.

It's a big accusation, but Dick builds his case piece by piece in methodical fashion, slowly climbing the mountain of blame. He doesn't entirely stick the landing, and some of the tricks he uses along the way — the film opens blaring "Pomp and Circumstance" — are dubious. But he raises awareness of an issue that cannot be swept under the rug, which makes "The Hunting Ground" an important film to see for parents, students and anyone involved with academia.

There are plenty of talking heads in the movie — too many, in fact — but Dick finds his heroes in Annie E. Clark and Andrea Pino, a pair of activists whose work raising awareness of sexual assaults on college campuses helped lead to a White House task force designed to address the problem. They give "The Hunting Ground" its center.

There isn't a bad time for a movie like "The Hunting Ground," but its release now is especially poignant: One of the film's subjects, Jameis Winston, was accused of sexual assault while he was at Florida State University. In the movie his accuser talks at length about the torment she faced after she came forward. Later this month, he is expected to be the No. 1 pick in the NFL draft.

'The Hunting Ground'


Rated PG-13 for disturbing thematic material involving sexual assault, and for language

Running time: 102 minutes