‘Hunting Ground’ Blows Lid Off Campus Rape

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"The Hunting Ground" is an expose about sexual assault of young women and men at U.S. college campuses.

Credit: Courtesy of Sundance

(WOMENSENEWS)– First a brava for Patricia Arquette, whose Oscar acceptance speech for Best Supporting Actress ended with a demand for equality; for everyone in the U.S., as well as women in Hollywood. That puts a final exclamation point on this year’s Academy Awards.

Now, let’s look at what February’s finale brings for women who want to support women in film.

Opening on Feb. 27, "The Hunting Ground" is an explosive expose about the sexual assault of young women – and men, too – at college campuses from Princeton to UC Berkeley. Co-ed rape is rampant across the nation. Cases reported to campus law enforcement are not investigated and administrators who are mandated to protect the school’s reputation cover up the shocking statistics. Alleged rapists go unpunished, especially when they’re frontrunner athletes who attract alumni loyalty and donations to the school. Filmmakers Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering, whose "The Invisible War" investigated sexual abuse in the military, focus on several victims who’ve fought further victimization by the system by forming support groups and an activist coalition so that they can share their own harrowing stories and demand change. "The Hunting Ground" should help with that. See and support this important documentary.

"Maps to the Stars" is filmmaker David Cronenberg‘s darkly satirical and deeply disturbing multi-story narrative about movie land and its desperately dysfunctional denizens. Mia Wasilkowska plays mysterious young Agatha, the recently arrived assistant to Julianne Moore’s Havana, a fading star on the verge of a nervous breakdown; a characterization quite different from Moore’s "Still Alice" role that just won her the Best Actress Oscar. The performances are superb, the cinematography stunning. However the complex plot wraps around a lot of extremely cruel behavior that may be beyond the level of tolerance for some viewers.

"The Vatican Tapes" is straight up femme-centric horror. The story begins with a cut finger that leads to delusional behavior that’s interpreted as demonic possession and then deemed to be a satanic curse. Yes, it’s scary.

"Everly" stars Salma Hayek in the title role, a kickass woman who’s literally under siege and is determined to fight off a brigade of assailants with all her hand-to-hand skills and blazing guns. The film is validating in its woman-as-combatant plot. It’s slickly shot. And Hayek is convincing. But this trend of showcasing women as kickass tough is getting tired. While stories about physical self-defense are important, if movies are to be viewed as elucidations of women’s equality issues and we’re picking our fights, there are bigger and more egregious issues to battle and win.

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