It can be argued that the focus on this film was the most powerful moment at the 88th Annual Academy Awards ceremony last month. “The Hunting Ground” was not among the five nominees for Best Documentary that night (a prize that eventually went to “Amy”), but it was in the competition for Best Original Song (won by “Writing’s on the Wall”, from the James Bond film, “Spectre”). “Til it Happens to You” received a powerful performance from Lady Gaga, a song she co-wrote with Diane Warren. The scorching composition was introduced by Vice-President Joe Biden, as its subject matter (and that of the documentary itself) focuses on victims of sexual abuse–one of Biden’s core issues. During the performance, survivors of abuse were marched out onto the stage. It was poignant and unforgettable. Too bad the song didn’t win–what a capper it would have been!
“The Hunting Ground” film is pretty good too. But it misses greatness by relying on some propaganda and shoddy filmmaking. The central theme is inarguable. The rape and abuse statistics reported on college campuses are staggering, and the level of punishments and incarcerations in these cases pale in comparison. In many instances, the abused are victimized further by an insensitive and corrupt system, that often excuses the accused…and demonizes the accuser. That reality was strong enough without over reliance on a decided amount of pomp and flamboyance. Being “simply told” would have worked better in this situation. “The Hunting Ground” has a build to rape accusations against a Heisman Trophy-winning football player as its centerpiece. So, a more subtle approach would have been more effective. Reports of shoddy journalism being employed are troubling too. But the overall impact is a powerful one. And the very real victims deserve to have their say.