Craig Zobel, the director of “The Hunt,” has broken his silence about the unseen controversial political dark comedy-thriller which was pulled from release a week ago and has become something of a political football in the past fortnight.
The helmer, speaking with Variety, says he hopes the film will eventually be seen by audiences and says that its message has been misrepresented in media reports as he had no intention to inflame political conflict. In fact, he says the film does not take sides politically and his aim was to satirise ‘both sides’ of the partisan divide and how they fail to fully hear their opponents’ views:
“If I believed this film could incite violence, I wouldn’t have made it. Our ambition was to poke at both sides of the aisle equally. We seek to entertain and unify, not enrage and divide. It is up to the viewers to decide what their takeaway will be.
I wanted to make a fun, action thriller that satirized this moment in our culture – where we jump to assume we know someone’s beliefs because of which ‘team’ we think they’re on… and then start shouting at them. This rush to judgment is one of the most relevant problems of our time.
My hope would be that people will reflect on why we are in this moment, where we don’t have any desire to listen to each other. And if I’m lucky some of us will ask each other: how did we get here? And where do we want to go moving forward?”
Universal suspended the marketing campaign for the film after a series of mass shootings in the United States. Zobel praised the studio for taking a “risk on greenlighting a film not based on prior intellectual property”. He adds he did not face any pressure to tone down the film’s politics and he supported the studio’s decision to delay its release in light of the massacres:
“I was devastated by going to sleep to El Paso and waking up to Dayton. These types of moments happen far too often. In the wake of these horrific events, we immediately considered what it meant for the timing of our film. Once inaccurate assumptions about the content and intent of the movie began to take hold, I supported the decision to move the film off its release date.”
Universal itself has pushed back against a recent report that test audiences had been uncomfortable with the film’s political slant along with stating the film never went by the title “Red State vs. Blue State” in either the development process or under studio status reports:
“While some outlets have indicated that test screenings for ‘The Hunt’ resulted in negative audience feedback; in fact, the film was very well-received and tallied one of the highest test scores for an original Blumhouse film. Additionally, no audience members in attendance at the test screening expressed discomfort with any political discussion in the film.”
Universal has not screened the film for critics, so the political content of the final cut remains conjecture.