Astounding. I really thought the documentary intrigued the audience (in an odd way) in the beginning. It was a compelling topic that needs to be addressed in this country. For me, the worst thing I saw was the statistic: 20% of undergraduate females are sexually assaulted. That’s not okay. And the fact that institutions refuse to collect and report these incidences in their annual reports to ensure a positive reputation is disgusting. What’s worse is these women go to counselors that refute their claims, change the subject, and figure out what SHE did wrong. I heard things like, “Maybe he was stressed” and “What did you do to provoke it? What were you wearing?” How can these institutions allow this to happen?! The narrative structure of the documentary was pretty basic; but was great in filling up time with personal interviews that all connected to the horrible instances of sexual assault and rape on campus. I just hope something is done about this, and soon.
Recently, we’ve been watching quite a few documentaries (and I think that we are continuing to watch documentaries for the rest of the semester), but I wanted to call to attention a film form that is not often used, but can still be incredibly brilliant: the mockumentary. Mockumentaries are films that follow fictional events and characters, but are stylized to parody documentary films (with interviews, b-roll, etc), and even though they are fairly uncommon, it is developing film form that could become extremely popular in the future.
This past weekend, a few friends and I watched What We Do in the Shadows, a 2014 mockumentary that follows a house of vampires trying to fit into the modern world. It was a hilarious film, and I don’t want to give away too much about the plot, but it was funny comparing this film to some of the documentaries that we have seen in class (WARNING: If you do plan on watching it, be warned that some scenes can be pretty graphic. These aren’t Twilight vampires). Because this was meant to be a parody, the creators had a little more fun with the gags and took the film’s subject a bit less seriously, but there were still interesting questions raised, like how involved should the filmmakers be in the “plot” of a documentary. In this film, the camera crew is often directly addressed by the characters, to the point where they become characters in the film themselves (they even run away from the werewolves like the vampires do). Obviously, they’re fictional characters, so they don’t exactly follow the same rules as people do in the real world, but at the same time, if the focus of the film is on particular subjects, should the filmmakers be included? Which is more realistic?
Because of their humorous nature, I feel like mockumentaries have greater capabilities than documentaries do in a sense. They aren’t bound to the “truth” like documentaries are, but they are still capable of tackling real world issues or problems, but addressing them in a creative, indirect way. Even though What We Do in the Shadows doesn’t take itself too seriously, it still addresses issues of isolation, guilt, lost love, and escaping your past. A documentary can do the same thing, yes, but with a fictional plot, sometimes its easier to discuss controversial topics.
The Hunting Ground was an amazing film on multiple levels, but I thought that it had the best use of info graphics out of any documentary that we’ve seen this year (in all honesty, probably better than most documentary films that I have seen recently). I thought that they were not only visually beautiful, but they could be both funny and heart-wrenching at the same time.
The scene that really stood out in my mind was the “Commercial Scene,” where a narrator discussed different college’s punishments for sexual assaults (including having to write a paper to discuss your feelings about the situation). Instead of just showing these facts listed against a black screen however, they showed the different college seals and actually animated them to change from a positive to a disappointing negative when the narrator discussed how foolish the punishments actually were. I thought that this was incredibly well-animated and was much more effective than simply reading the facts, because, in addition the narrator’s sarcastic tone, we, as an audience, visually saw that the colleges were disappointing, and were not properly addressing the issue of sexual assault. Not all graphics work well, but I feel like these not only fit the tone of the film, but added a huge amount of depth to it.
Yesterday I took the shuttle to Target and the driver opened up to me about his frustration working with the Administration at Lafayette. He elaborated on how the college tracks the shuttles and scolds them for being even a minute late when they do not always afford the drivers enough time to get to stops due to traffic. He also mentioned to me how the driver’s were not allowed to use the restroom because this would further delay the schedule. The bus company had to speak up for these simple human rights for their workers to our administration. It reminded me uncomfortably of The Hunting Ground. The hierarchy of people in the college system seems ever more clear. In The Hunting Ground, Dick highlighted how the rights of athlete students as well as fraternity members are held to a higher prestige than regular female students. In the same way, (presumably) the comfort and connivence of the students are held at a higher level than that of the workers, like this bus driver. It seems ridiculous that bathroom breaks haven’t built in for drivers that have to drive for 5+ hours. It also feels very contradictory from the goals and values of a liberal arts college.
It was recently revealed that the new Avengers film will be released as an extended edition on DVD, presumably with the original cut listed at a running time of about 3 hours. This brings into question the idea of a film ever really being complete and the idea of director’s cuts/extended editions in general. There are famous examples of these, such as the Lord of the Rings Extended Editions, Blade Runner: Final Cut, Apocalypse Now Redux, among many others. When is a film truly a complete film? Can the director edit a film as many times as he/she wishes and consider it to still be the same piece of work? Take, for example, the Star Wars special editions. Many fans consider the special editions to not even be “Star Wars,” as many scenes are completely changed or altered. It’s a complex question and one that most likely doesn’t have an answer – more of an opinion.
Before the screening of The Hunting Ground, I thought The Ninth Girl was such powerful short film. One of the best parts of the film was knowing that is was a short film, I did not know when it was going to end and what cliffhangers it was going to leave for the audience. Another aspect I really loved about the film was the choice to have no dialogue in the film and have the ongoing sound of a heartbeat. Therefore, throughout the film I didn’t know what was going to happen next and due to the intensity of the scene, I felt my heart beating fast like the sound playing. Although a fictional short, it could very might as well be a true story to someone, which is the reason why such a short film like this is so powerful in meaning.
After watching Kirby Dick’s documentary The Hunting Ground, I considered this film to be a huge “eye-opener.” Rape is a term that many are familiar with and have heard hundreds of time. What many do not know is that sexual assault is a serious and ongoing problem. That is why The Hunting Ground is such a pivotal film.
In Dick’s documentary, we visit famous American colleges and universities that have built themselves such incredible reputations over the years. Places like Harvard and FSU have created reputations of academic excellence and football stardom. What Kirby does that is just so amazing is that he doesn’t care how idolized these schools are and exposes the truth. Exposing the truth is hard and intimidating, but Kirby does it in a beautiful way. Although intense and shocking, his film captures the audience’s attention with his incredible interviews, music, and graphics.
My favorite part of the film was definitely the ending. He shows many of the survivors taking a stand and speaking out with an upbeat soundtrack in the background, giving the audience an idea that this problem is resolving. Then, as the two main advocates of the movie are driving off to another campus, the two girls get a phone call from a parent saying how his daughter is in need of help after being the victim of sexual assault. This scene here shows the viewer that although people are starting to receive the message of how prevalent this problem is, it does not have a simple solution of one that can be fixed over night. People across the nation need to band together. I believe that The Hunting Ground should be screened on all college campuses across the country.
The brief video “The Ninth Girl” we watched in Kirby the other night before the actual movie I thought was very well done. Besides that choice of font in the title opening (it’s a subtle video, why use humongous font sizes) the complete rushing attitude and its brevity of the short made its point very clear. It starts the viewer confused and disoriented, exactly like how the girl felt, and then moved on a rapid pace to the next scene. As she tried to get her thoughts together, she fell prey to the spotlight effect and felt as if everyone around was noticing every move she had done. I felt like the audience was with her every step of the way, as she stumbles to regain her train of thought, as do we. Even the most basic functions such as walking are a struggle. The ending of the short was also worth noting since it had such a large impact on what would happen next. When the girl was faced with the options of calling for help or not to, she actually chose the one with no repercussions on the other side, which is unfortunately what actually happens most of the time in real life situations.
After screening the hunting ground, there were a few things that struck me.
One thing that both surprised and frustrated me was the lack of action taken by the colleges to punish sex offenders. This is an issue that I think many people are already well-aware of. However, the film’s use of personal interviews to propel the narrative really highlighted the extent of this problem. If we take a step back, its important to acknowledge that colleges are revenue-generating institutions; they are just like any other business. Its easy to view prestigious schools through a more naive lens, to assume that they will favor due process and punish those who harm others on their campuses. Unfortunately, because schools are economically-motivated, they have a vested interest in maintaining a favorable public image. This allows them to attract more students, and to appease parents who want the absolute best for their children. Each additional student will happily hand over an additional thirty to sixty thousand dollars a year for the opportunity to get a degree at a respected school. Clearly, many schools value the preservation of their public image more than they care about pursing legal action against sex offenders.
There are certainly inherent flaws within the system of higher-education. Its extremely difficult to combat these kinds of issues as long a colleges acts like any other business, which they will undoubtedly continue to do. Furthermore, like any illegal or deviant behavior, such as drug use and violence, sexual abuse has existed in human society for thousands of years. Just as schools cannot eradicate drinking or drug use, sexual abuse (which is a supremely atrocious activity) is hard to combat. Its nearly impossible to screen against abusive individuals before they decide to act. Just like with drug usage, motivated individuals will find a way to act upon their desires. We also know that the excessive partying and alcohol consumption on college campuses means that sexual crimes are easy to carry out.
I don’t really have any profound insights regarding the problem of sexual abuse on college campuses, other than acknowledging that it is a serious issue, one which will take significant policy changes and systemic alterations to eradicate.