BERLIN The crew of a hard-hitting film about initiation rituals at U.S. college fraternities said they hoped the movie would break the code of silence that has kept such violent hazing practices veiled in secrecy for too long.
The film “Goat”, which is screening in the Panorama Section at the 66th Berlin International Film Festival, is based on the memoir of Brad Land. It tells the story of two brothers, played by Nick Jonas and Ben Schnetzer, who get dragged into the brutal traditions of a college fraternity named Phi Sigma Mu.
The film shows the sadistic cruelty and humiliating violence of initiation rituals in which former victims often become the next perpetrators, cementing a certain code of conduct and concept of masculinity in these seemingly elite groups.
“I think it’s important for anyone going to college to see this film and have some perspective before diving into college culture,” Jonas told Reuters.
The actor said the film was a commentary about masculinity and some of the challenges that come when a group of young men are all fighting to be alpha in a closed environment.
Director and co-writer Andrew Neel said one reason for doing the movie was that hardly any feature films have been made on the subject so far.
For Neel, the film is much about male insecurity which stems from deeply rooted societal expectations all young men find themselves confronted with.
“I think men have some stuff to work out so I think the world might be a better place if we tried to start having a dialogue about masculinity and male coming of age,” Neel said.
He noted that it was hard to understand why young men would voluntarily expose themselves to such humiliating practices.
“Everyone knows it happens which is what’s so strange because kids are dying every year and being brutalised and there is no need for it to continue, really,” Neel noted.
“I hope that colleges will pay attention to the film, I do, because for some reason people know about it but don’t do anything about it.”
The film is co-produced by James Franco who also has a short scene in the movie as a highly respected alumnus of the student fraternity.
Jonas said shooting the movie was a special experience.
“This was about 25 days of extreme intensity and a beautiful story, a story that’s still hard to watch. But I think we got a really important message and I was thrilled to be part of it.”
(Writing by Michael Nienaber; editing by Susan Thomas)