The high-profile and hotly-debated campus rape documentary “The Hunting Ground” was majorly snubbed from the 2016 Academy Awards nominations announced Thursday. It failed to take home an expected nomination for best documentary feature.
Instead of a nomination for best documentary, the film’s only Oscar nomination is in the best original song category, for Lady Gaga’s “Til It Happens To You.” Best documentary nods went to “Amy,” “Cartel Land,” “The Look of Silence,” “Winter on Fire,” and “What Happened, Miss Simone?”
In December, when the Academy released a 15-film shortlist of potential nominees for best documentary, “The Hunting Ground” was touted by The New York Times as one of the leading candidates in a “top-heavy” field.
Now, it appears the film has been derailed by intense criticisms of its accuracy and fairness. Besides promoting the narrative that one in five women are sexually assaulted while in college, the film focuses on the personal stories of several women who claim to have been raped on campus. Several of those stories have come under fire.
The most prominent storyline in the film is that of Erica Kinsman, who claims she was raped by then-Florida State University football star Jameis Winston. The film presents Kinsman’s allegations uncritically, while obscuring strong evidence of Jameis Winston’s innocence.
Another prominent figure in the film is Kamilah Willingham, who says she was raped by fellow student Brandon Winston at Harvard University. Brandon Winston is portrayed as almost certainly guilty, even though a Massachusetts grand jury cleared him of any sex-related charges. The film’s treatment of Brandon Winston was so harsh that in November a group of Harvard Law School professors released an open letter denouncing the film as “propaganda” in advance of a primetime airing on CNN.
Supporters of “The Hunting Ground” menaced the professors with the threat of a possible federal investigation on the grounds their criticism of the film made students feel “unsafe” on campus and therefore violated civil rights law.
Currently, it appears critics have been partially vindicated, and the attacks have taken a toll. Variety magazine’s Ella Taylor recently trashed “The Hunting Ground” as one of 2015’s worst films because of its “shoddy journalism.”
It’s not the first time a highly-visible documentary has been snubbed from the Oscars. Previous films shut out of the Oscar field include “Blackfish,” “Hoop Dreams,” “Waiting for ‘Superman,'” and “Fahrenheit 9/11.”
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