Cedar Crest College newspaper since 1923
By: Kristina Litonjua, Staff Writer
Earlier this year, the documentary film The Hunting Ground debuted at the Sundance Film Festival. On October 30th, as part of the First Year Fridays series, the film was featured to students and staff in Alumnae Hall Theater.
The documentary is an expose on the occurrences of sexual assaults and rape culture on college campuses around the country. Although only one hour of the entire 103 minute film was shown, it was evident that the shocking and heartbreaking content made the audience experience every extreme of emotion.
Despite the heavy topic that The Hunting Ground deals with, the opening scene of the documentary was lighthearted, displaying reactions of high school students being accepted into college to the familiar Pomp and Circumstance tune. Following this, several people, including Andrea Pino and Annie Clark who both attended the University of North Carolina, were interviewed and began speaking of their excitement to attend college. Every now and then there was laughter among the viewers, as this brought back nostalgic memories for many. But this did not last very long.
Overall, The Hunting Ground was effective in giving a better understanding of the devastating psychological toll that sexual assault causes on someone. The stark contrast of the joyful scenes of the openings scene made it difficult to watch as these people, who appeared so optimistic only minutes before, struggled to retell their stories of assault to the camera. Their display of raw emotion resonated with the audience. As they spoke, the theater was silent.
Besides the candidness of the film’s subjects, it was also blunt in its investigation of assaults in fraternities, victim blaming, and lack of institutional action. During one sequence, statistics of disciplinary actions taken by several college was shown. This had the audience in an uproar. Shouts, gasps, and whispers filled the hall for the rest of the scene.
However, the last few minutes of The Hunting Ground were the most impactful. The documentary shifted its focus to Pino and Clark’s story of becoming a support system as well as civil rights activists for other survivors. Their experience of overcoming tragedy to help others completely transformed The Hunting Ground from disheartening to empowering. Once again, the documentary allowed the audience to momentarily embody another emotion of victims: hope.
There were many sighs of relief when the film ended, leaving viewers in different states of mind. Nonetheless, The Hunting Ground left an impression on all. Megan Allen, an Outreach Educator from the Victims Crime Council of the Lehigh Valley, stated that “it’s really a whole community event when we are talking about [this kind of crime] and…trying to get everyone to understand that we are not going to tolerate this and we are not going to tolerate attitudes that perpetuate this.”
After a few closing words from Vice President Mary Alice Ozechoski and Chief Mark Vitalos in regards to The Hunting Ground, an overwhelming sense of community could be felt–a reminder that we look after each other here at Cedar Crest.