Bil’s rating (out of 5): BBBB. USA, 2015. Chain Camera Pictures. Screenplay by Kirby Dick. Cinematography by Aaron Kopp, Thaddeus Wadleigh. Produced by Amy Ziering. Music by Miriam Cutler. Film Editing by Douglas Blush, Derek Boonstra, Kim Roberts. Academy Awards 2015.
Kirby Dick follows his searing documentary on sexual assault in the military with a corresponding film that examines the issue as it applies to college and university campuses throughout America; as in The Invisible War, the data is staggering, with the numbers of young people (mostly women) who don’t report their experiences estimated to be a great deal higher than those who do. What’s most disturbing, and where this film finds its most explosive content, is the amount of ignoring, covering up and distraction that school personnel up to the highest level do to avoid bringing infamy upon their institution or threaten the dollars coming in from donors, responding to the young people who come to them after having been attacked by trying to figure out a way to make the situation and not the perpetrator go away. Because so many of these attacks are associated with college sports or fraternities, going after rapists, even in cases where evidence has proven them guilty and, ridiculously enough, in situations where they have confessed, is a threat to the flow of money coming from alumni benefactors and athletic investments, which means that someone who simply wants their attacker to be brought to justice is actually up against a giant capitalist machine that chews individuals up and spits them out on a regular basis. The fact that those committing these crimes have a high rate of repeat offenses speaks to this institutional corruption, one which eventually inspires two young women, Andrea Pino and Annie Clark, to lead a movement to deal with this situation further, their efforts the frame around which this film’s narrative is set. These two brave young people hit the books and decide to play the academic world’s game, using Title 9 (which allows women the freedom of education) as a legal reason for women not to have to be in classes with the men who have assaulted them. The many testimonials from young people who have the courage to tell their tale on camera make for difficult viewing, but Pino and Clark’s work and their impact on this issue provides, if not a happy ending, at least a light at the end of the film’s very dark tunnel.