Sundance documentary focuses on college sexual assault, Title IX violations

Senator: 'Believe me, there will be fallout'

A documentary that premiered at Sundance Film Festival on Friday examines the sexual assault and Title IX violations on college campuses, specifically focusing on a handful of schools.

Directed by Kirby Dick, The Hunting Ground interviews undergraduate women who said they were sexually assaulted at school and faced pushback from administrators, including the first on-camera interview of the student who unsuccessfully tried to bring charges against Florida State University football star Jameis Winston.

The documentary will be shown in theaters beginning March 20 and air on CNN later in the year, at an undisclosed date.

Colleges reluctant to participate

While senior university officials do not speak on camera, Dick told the New York Times he invited them—but presidents of 41 schools either declined his offer or did not respond at all.

Amy Ziering, the film's producer, says she was surprised by the reluctance of university officials to speak on the issue, but acknowledged that "speaking out could hurt your career. Even if you moved to another institution, you could be branded as a troublemaker."

The documentary mentions "dozens" of schools, but focuses on six, according to New York Times. It spotlights the fraternity system as well.

During the premiere at the festival, "audience members repeatedly gasped" as students talked about their assault experiences and being ignored by school administrators. When the film concluded, the audience gave it a standing ovation.

"Believe me, there will be fallout," said Sen. Barbara Boxer (D-California) at a panel discussion on Saturday.

Boxer added that she plans to meet with Secretary of Education Arne Duncan next week with a warning: "Get out ahead of this, because this is going to come back to your door after everyone sees this film" (Raup, The Film Stage, 1/21; Inside Higher Ed, 1/26; Barnes, New York Times, 1/25; Stern, Daily Beast, 1/24; Turan, Los Angeles Times, 1/23).

The takeaway: A new documentary spotlights rape culture and alleged cover-ups at universities.

Next in Today's Briefing

How a new student loan model could upend higher ed funding

Next Briefing

  • Manage Your Events
  • Saved webpages and searches
  • Manage your subscriptions
  • Update personal information
  • Invite a colleague