When a documentary comes around that might influence legislation in Congress, a few people might raise their eyebrows. But when a documentary comes around that might influence the NFL draft? That's how you get attention.
Such is the potential of "The Hunting Ground," a film about sexual assault on U.S. universities and the follow-up for director Kirby Dick and producer Amy Ziering after their 2012, "The Invisible War."
Their new movie tells a disturbing story of serial sexual assaults, and the way some of the most respected institution such as Harvard and the University of North Carolina, fail to address the situation. In this, it's much like "The Invisible War," which showed an epidemic of sexual assault in the military and how the military's justice system stacks the deck against the victims.
Dick and Ziering, seen here at the West End Cinema in 2012, have a new movie about sexual assault on campus. (Douglas Graham/CQ Roll Call File Photo)
That earlier film spurred outrage about what was happening in the military, and caught the attention of lawmakers such as Sen. Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., who has made changing the military's justice system a top priority to address. Gillibrand has also helped spearhead bipartisan legislation to address campus rape by changing reporting requirements at the nation's colleges and universities.
Dick has made sex a sort of mini-beat.
The director (no relation to the author) also made a film about sexual assault in the Catholic Church in 2004's "Twist of Faith" and 2009's "Outrage," which is about closeted political figures who lobby for anti-gay legislation. He even probed the Motion Picture Association of America — site of a screening and panel discussion of "The Hunting Ground" on Feb. 26 — and how sexual content disadvantages movies in the ratings system more than graphic violence in "This Film Is Not Yet Rated."
And how does this all relate to the NFL draft? One of the most poignant stories in "The Hunting Ground" is about rape allegations against Florida State University Quarterback Jameis Winston by Erica Kinsman. Winston, a Heisman Trophy winner and top prospect in this spring's draft, is singled out as a predator in the film. The filmmakers say they hope every NFL owner should see the movie before the draft.
Kinsman, a student at FSU at the time of the incident in question who has since left the school, has spoken out in other outlets as well, and filed a lawsuit against the university. Dick and Ziering see Kinsman's story as an opportunity to expose the issue to a broader audience. As Ziering put it at the Feb. 26 panel at the MPAA, gesturing to herself and Dick, "You're pretty much looking at the sum total of the marketing budget."
"The Hunting Ground" is playing at Landmark's E Street Cinema at 555 11th St. NW. It will play later on this fall on CNN.
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