Despite my initial warning, CNN has chosen to go through with its broadcast of an abomination entitled The Hunting Ground. The purpose of this film was to explore the missteps of several prominent college campuses – including Florida State – in investigating sexual assault allegations against their students. If you are a student or anyone remotely familiar with documentaries, I’d strongly advise you not to watch this film tonight at 8:00 PM on CNN (that’s channel 40 for you Comcast users). Not only has Mr. Winston’s attorney threatened a lawsuit over the film, but I am also declining to view the film, and I want you to know why. Before I do, however, I want to make one thing clear. FSU does not tolerate filmmaking of mediocre quality. Period.
An Inconvenient Truth. Blackfish. Napoleon Dynamite. These are all classic documentary films – all of which I happen to fundamentally disagree with, but that’s beside the point – and their genre is about to be tarnished by The Hunting Ground when it airs on cable TV for the first time.
For many years, FSU’s film school has been a model for film schools across the nation. We’ve produced many notable alumni, including Sam Beam of the band Iron & Wine, who is famous for being on the Twilight soundtrack, and Lauren Miller, who married Seth Rogen. Our school teaches all the finer aspects of filmmaking, including sound mixing, humble bragging about your program at every lull in a conversation, and making the money.
You won’t see any of these qualities in The Hunting Ground. And that’s why I – and the presidents of other universities portrayed in the film – have decided not to watch the movie tonight. It’s about the cinematic amateurism, not the subject.
Director Kirby Dick has no grasp of how to direct a movie. The transitions are awkward, the interviews remind me too much of The Office and the narrative build to the final scene starring YOUR Florida State University is a bit dragged out. It could have ended twenty minutes sooner and I wouldn’t have missed much. And don’t even get me started on that dreadful Lady Gaga song. Katy Perry is my queen and Gaga wishes she could be as good as her.
Further, the narrative thrust of the film is very dissatisfying. It starts off shocking, then takes a depressing turn and becomes a little bit hopeful, but then becomes sad again at the end. I wanted to feel happy by the end, like I do every time I finish re-watching Minions, but instead I just felt sad and a little guilty.
Good filmmakers do not rush a film onto the big screen just because there happens to be an epidemic of sexual assaults on college campuses at the moment and their film is specifically about raising awareness of sexual assaults on college campuses. And yeah, maybe we messed up a little at first. But after some of the evidence, including a video of the encounter, was gone, we tried our best to figure out what happened. We really did. And you guys are being awfully mean about it now. Your film was an excellent opportunity to talk about the very serious crime of sexual assault, but because of my disagreements with it, I refuse to discuss the very serious crime of sexual assault. So thanks for the invite to your panel, but no thanks, jerks. :p
John “Ebert” Thrasher