An interview with THE HUNTING GROUND director, Kirby Dick.
Kirby Dick has been directing fascinating exposés for years, but something changed in him when he released his Oscar-nominated 2012 film, THE INVISIBLE WAR. The film focused on exposing sexual assault in the United States Military. “I don’t usually make two films with the same subject matter,” Dick tells me when we meet in Toronto. He had been working on another film, but after screening THE INVISIBLE WAR at college campuses, he realized that there was a similar issue that needed to be tackled first. “During the Q&A’s, the subject of rape in the military would quickly pivot to rape on college campuses,” he explains. Dick and producer Amy Ziering put their other project aside, and began work on THE HUNTING GROUND immediately.
THE HUNTING GROUND features interviews with dozens of victims who have been assaulted whilst pursuing their college education. The survivors complained to their schools but were subjected to victim blaming and were silenced. The interviews in the film are extremely detailed and are often graphic. Dick explained that it was Ziering who conducted the interviews with the victims, rather than himself. “Amy is an incredible interviewer. She creates a very safe space to talk about this kind of subject matter. She makes sure they know that they can talk about whatever they like and stop if they want to.” Dick also attributes the effective interviews to the success of THE INVISIBLE WAR, stating that many of the victims had seen that beforehand. He explains that conducting the interviews themselves was not a problem, but rather the challenge was finding victims who wanted to appear on camera. “The challenge for a lot of these survivors was deciding to speak, because the last time they spoke, it was to an institution and in so many cases the institution shut them down. Pretty much everyone came forward because they really didn’t want this to continue happening. They wanted to be a part of the solution.”
One of the victims interviewed in the film is Erica Kinsman, who was assaulted by college football player, Jameis Winston. The film marks the first time that Kinsman is revealing her identity, because when she told the police in November 2013, nothing was done. Kinsman was immediately accused of lying and Winston was protected by his school and the police. Remarking on that section of the film, Dick said, “So much of the other side of the story was out there and her side was not being heard and she wanted to come forward. It’s the same reason why many of these girls come forward. They do it not necessarily to change what happened to them or to get justice, but to prevent it from happening to other people.” Dick and Ziering reached out to Winston for an interview, but their request was denied. Winston is predicted to be the number one pick for the 2015 NFL draft.
Only recently has action been taken against the current treatment of sexual assault on college campuses, but Dick believes that we still have a far way to go. “I think what President Obama and Vice President Biden have done to really start to pressure schools to change policies is great. Things are beginning to move in the right direction, but many schools are pushing back against all this,” Dick says. He believes that it is up to the presidents of the colleges to take a stand. He explains, “In order to have an indication that things are beginning to change, we need to see college presidents stepping up publicly, on television, saying, ‘this is a serious problem at our school. It’s been a serious problem for a long time. We haven’t done enough by any means and I am going to personally take responsibility and make this a top priority.’”
Dick is very passionate about this. It is clear that he has expressed this time and time again. He continues, “When you see them publicly speaking about this you will know that perhaps things will lead to change. The other thing they should do is apologize. Nearly every president should step up and apologize for the decades of survivors who came forward and were not treated properly. Apologizing to survivors goes a long way towards their healing and it goes a long way toward encouraging other survivors to come forward. If survivors don’t come forward you will never solve the problem, because without survivors coming forward we will not identify predators and they will continue to assault.”
THE HUNTING GROUND is infuriating, but it is absolutely essential viewing, and it is playing now. The success of this film can only help pave the way towards a solution to this horrifying epidemic. Be a part of that solution.
To see how you can help, visit www.thehuntinggroundfilm.com