Speaking of shoddy journalism, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has succumbed without a murmur to “The Hunting Ground,” placing on its documentary feature shortlist a loaded piece of agitprop that plays fast and loose with statistics and our sympathy with victims of campus sexual assault. With death-defying leaps of logic on the basis of skimpy and distorted evidence, Kirby Dick and Amy Ziering’s film does violence to both the legitimate fight for women’s rights and the honorable cause of advocacy filmmaking.
Taylor’s isn’t a lone voice:
So why is The Hunting Ground being screened at Australian universities? Simple: it furthers the left-wing – and particularly the feminist “rape culture” – agenda and there’s money to be made.
Some background: CNN first aired the film in November 2015, attracting “457,000 viewers, second in cable news to Fox News’s 970,000″. Subsequent revenue from the U.S. box office and DVD and Blue-ray sales is a modest US$415,381.00. The real money is probably made from single-site screening packages marketed to U.S. high schools and tertiary institutions, many of these tertiary institutions probably perceiving that failure to show the “documentary” would indicate they have a sex assault problem they’d rather not address.
The Hunting Ground is marketed to Australian universities and high schools through the cunningly conceived The Hunting Ground Australia Project, which is actually Madman Entertainment, a “theatrical, home entertainment distribution and rights management company, specialising in the wholesale distribution of DVD and BLU RAY product into sales channels throughout Australia and New Zealand.” From promotional material for The Hunting Ground Australia Project:
The Hunting Ground Australia Project is using the documentary as a tool to engage Australian universities, and the broader community, in a collaborative, comprehensive and unified campaign around the incidence of, and responses to, sexual violence on Australian university campuses.
Local campus screenings of The Hunting Ground will encourage conversations about the experiences of students portrayed in the film and how they relate to the Australian context.
The Hunting Ground Australia Project has engaged the Australian Human Rights Commission and the Australian Human Rights Centre at UNSW to develop the Australian Universities’ Sexual Assault and Harassment Survey – an independent survey on the prevalence, reporting experiences and responses to sexual assault and sexual harassment in university settings. The survey will fill the current information gap and provide Australian universities with the knowledge required to better understand and respond to this issue.
This implies that the Australian Human Rights Commission and the UNSW Australian Human Rights Centre endorse the film, thus providing a cachet of authoritativeness that the film doesn’t deserve. But it’s wonderful that The Hunting Ground Australia Australia Project is seemingly funding a comprehensive independent survey. All is not as it seems, however.
The following exchange is from an interview in which Andrea Durbach, Professor of Law and Director, Australian Human Rights Centre at the University of NSW, apparently on a The Hunting Ground junket where she meets up with the producer, highly recommends the film:
PJB: The seed funding for the survey came from the THGAP (via Good Pitch² Australia)?
AD: It did.
PJB: Do you have enough money because that is a huge undertaking—rigour ain’t cheap.
AD: We also got some funding from the Faculty of Law, UNSW to bring on a research associate, Dr Rosemary Grey, to work with me on the project—
PJB: But how does the Commission pay for the work on the survey?
AD: Well, the design and research of the survey is one thing but the actual implementation of it across 30-39 universities is massive and then the collation of those results—just listening to how they conducted the ADFA Survey: they needed to bring in teams of trained statisticians—
PJB: Huge time and personnel costs—
AD: There will need to be additional funding for the process.
There we have it: Madmen Entertainment pays for an unknown portion of the survey costs and gets to use an apparent endorsement from the Australian Human Rights Commission and the UNSW Australian Human Rights Centre in its advertising for a film it’s distributing. The bulk of the survey’s “huge time and personnel costs” will undoubtedly be footed by taxpayers. Truly cunning.
Update: The full text of an email to a university vice-chancellor:
You give a glowing recommendation for The Hunting Ground but several reputable persons allege that the film contains numerous inaccuracies and that the film advocates rather than documents. Are you aware of the controversy?
Please refer here.
Thank you for getting in touch.
I am aware of the various discussions surrounding The Hunting Ground. These have made for lively conversations about the nature of documentary film making.
My support for this film comes from its potential to drive positive change in terms of eradicating violence, particularly against women, and providing appropriate support for people affected by violence. The film raises these issues in a poignant and compelling way. [Omitted] is a leader in research associated with eradicating violence in our community and our support for The Hunting Ground is a way of further engaging people in this national conversation.
“Poignant and compelling” exaggeration and outright lies.
Update II: UNSW Australian Human Rights Centre helps sell the film – note that the item as been rewritten and no longer mentions The Hunting Ground Australia Project:
Australia’s universities have launched a major new campaign to prevent sexual assault and harassment, in a groundbreaking initiative across the sector.
Working with partners including the Australian Human Rights Commission, the UNSW Australian Human Rights Centre and The Hunting Ground Australia Project Team, the sector has begun collaborative work …
Key project partners
- The Hunting Ground Australia Project (THGPA)
- Australian Human Rights Centre, UNSW Law
- Australian Human Rights Commission
- Universities Australia
- National Union of Students (NUS)
Meanwhile, Huffington Post also promotes The Hunting Ground:
In Australia, the Human Rights Commission and the National Union of Students are among institutions onboard with the The Hunting Ground Australia Project to investigate institutional responses to sexual harassment and assault.
Doco producer Amy Ziering said Australian universities showed ‘moral courage’ in facing these issues.
“We are impressed and heartened by the leadership role that Australian universities are taking on these issues — and hope that their efforts will inspire their global peers to demonstrate similar moral courage and follow suit,” Ziering said in a statement.
As part of the project, the doco will be screened at campuses across Australia, resources will be created about sexual ethics and consent and a survey will be developed to ascertain the prevalence of sexual harassment and assault.
Yep, I’ll bet Ziering is pleased.
Update III: The Hunting Ground Australia Project is, like Safe Schools, “transforming cultural values in Australia through capture of institutions”.