2. The Assault
■ Six years ago, when two high-school football players in Steubenville, Ohio, raped a 16-year-old girl and texted video of the assault to their friends,
the case was among the first of its kind to go viral on social media and subsequently spark national outrage and eventual prosecution. The
film Share, from first-time writer-director Pippa Bianco, tells a similar story, only her movie — acutely aware of the #MeToo climate in which it
emerges — is told from the victim’s perspective.
■ Based on Bianco's 2015 short of the same name, Share is an immersive teen drama about Mandy (played by British newcomer Rhianne Barreto),
a high schooler who wakes up face down in her front yard after a night of partying with friends that she doesn’t remember. The next day, she
receives multiple texts of a video of her being assaulted while blackout drunk; it is unclear exactly who the perpetrators are. Her life is upended,
she becomes a pariah at school and we spend the rest of the pic trying to figure out exactly what happened.
■ Aided by down-to-earth portrayals and a compelling cinematographic throughline that echoes the both ordinary and complex nature of this kind of
violence, Share blurs genre lines between coming-of-age drama and thriller. It’s psycho-drama lite, grounded in a quietly intense portrait of how a
girl, her family and a small town grapple with the ugliness of sexual violence.
■ Bianco and her cinematographer Ava Berkofsky (HBO’s Insecure) intentionally pepper the film with visuals that are hard to make out at first,
mirroring the state of Mandy’s memory of her trauma. Moments and images of confusion and suspended time are intricately woven throughout the
movie: a sponge slowly moving through dishwater, intermittent flashes of a street lamp in a car at night, extreme close-ups under blue and gray
light. We’re meant to linger in the messiness of Mandy’s experience as she discovers more about that night and attempts to heal.
■ One of the most impactful moments in the film is when Mandy asks her mother Kerri (wisely played by Poorna Jagannathan in a standout
performance) if she and her father, Mickey (JC MacKenzie), think she is to blame for the assault. Her mother quickly refutes that shaming notion,
and you can’t help but wish that every real-life Mandy would have someone like this in her corner.
■ Just as important, Kerri explains how clueless men can be when it comes to the prevalence of assault. She tells Mandy that even for her own
(white, straight) husband, Mandy’s sexual assault is utterly surprising and likely his first personal connection to a survivor, while Kerri has long
known that sexual assault happens “every minute of every day.”
3. The Hunting Ground
■ The Hunting Ground presents multiple students who were sexually assaulted at their college campuses, and say that college administrators either ignored them
or required that they navigate a complex academic bureaucracy to have their claims addressed. The film shows that many college officials were more concerned
by minimizing rape statistics for their universities than by the welfare of the students,] and contains interviews with college administrators who state that they were
pressured into suppressing rape cases. The film chiefly criticized actions (or lack thereof) by university administrations, including Harvard, the University of North
Carolina at Chapel Hill, Amherst College, and Notre Dame, but it also examines fraternitiessuch as Sigma Alpha Epsilon, colloquially referred by some as
“Sexual Assault Expected”.[
■ The narrative features Andrea Pino and Annie Clark,students at the University of North Carolina, who became campus anti-rape activists after being assaulted. In
response to what they saw as an inadequate response from the university, they filed a Title IX complaint against The University of North Carolina on January 16,
2013 (along with three other students),] and co-founded the group End Rape on Campus.]
■ As well as talking to women who share how they were victims of both rapists and unsympathetic university officials, the filmmakers interviewed students, parents,
and administrators. The Hunting Ground also includes a conversation with a former Notre Dame police officer who criticized how rape cases were handled at that
institution.The officer spoke of a case where he was not allowed to question a student accused of rape, a Notre Dame football player, at any time that student was
on athletic department property.] The Hunting Ground also includes testimony from male victims of sexual assault. Producer Amy Ziering stated the filmmakers
"felt it was important to show men and women. For men it's often harder to speak up because there is a social stigma associated with rape. Many male victims
were feeling ashamed."
■ A section of the film is focused on Jameis Winston, the former star quarterback for the Florida State Seminoles football team (now an NFL Free Agent), and the
accusation of sexual assault against him while at Florida State. His accuser, Erica Kinsman, publicly discusses the incident for the first time after Jameis Winston
refused to speak about the inncident.
■ The filmmakers feature experts who say that most rapes are committed by a small number of repeat offenders. Director Kirby Dick stated that less than eight
percent of the population is responsible for more than ninety percent of all sexual assaults.Producer Amy Ziering said that "our failure as a society to apprehend
perpetrators leaves criminals at large who are savvy and experienced, and able to continue to commit these crimes with impunity."
■ Senator Kirsten Gillibrand (D-NY) makes a brief appearance in the film.