It was only three years ago visual arts student at Columbia University, Emma Sulkowicz, carried her mattress across the stage at graduation, to bring awareness to rape and sexual assault on college campuses. In the last five years, college campuses all over the country have been exposed for their efforts to protect the university, by neglecting the victims and in some cases, blaming the victims. In light of this activism, was born M.F.A. (2017). It takes place at Balboa University, a fictional, generic American college.
A beautiful young art student, Noelle (Francesca Eastwood), who seems to lack inspiration, meets a good-looking, sweet, and quirky artist, Luke (Peter Vack). Luke invites Noelle over for a house party he and his roommates throw, After a fun night together, Luke brings her to his room and eventually rapes her. (TRIGGER WARNING: THE RAPE SCENES ARE REALISTIC). After her brutal attack, she is told by her roommate, Skye (Leah McKendrick) to not report it to campus police, because they did not help “a friend of hers”, they only made her friend feel worse. Her vicious attack finally eats away at her and she goes to report the rape. Being drilled with irrelevant questions, “What were you wearing?” “How much did you have to drink?” “Did you say no, or maybe?”, Noelle realizes she will not be helped by campus administration, and decides to confront Luke. What happens is a horrifying journey towards inspiration for her art and herself.
This film was moving, but very hard to watch as a college student. Tackling the campus rape epidemic is no easy task. What makes this movie so thrilling and emotional is that rape is real. Rape happens everywhere. There is no “monster under the bed”. There is no “boogeyman”. Revenge thrillers can sometimes be rather petty, but this film had a serious subject, that was portrayed edgy, yet still tasteful. Director Natalia Leite, and writer/actor Leah McKendrick were the perfect pair to write this revenge-thriller. Both are college educated young women whose lives are affected by this epidemic directly. They wrote a script that made everyone applaud, while Noelle killed these rapists. In an interview with Daily Motion, McKendrick said she wanted this film to be for everyone, “Maybe they’re a man who hasn’t been sexually assaulted, or have not had the female college experience, but they could still be entertained as well.”
This film successfully brought awareness to the dark topic of sexual assault on college campuses. Writer Leah McKendrick also spoke on the false sense of security, that comes from social media and “hashtagging”. She called upon the world to actually act on this matter, and to not share posts, but to actually go out and make change in this world, that is filled with evil.