Honest Film Reviews of Hookup Culture Documentary, Liberated

After we shot our first documentary film, Nefarious: Merchant of Souls, exposing global human trafficking, we were haunted by the images of women and children for sale in places all around the world—and the men lining up to purchase them.

That experience prompted the question, “What kind of society is producing so many men willing to buy a woman or child for sex?” Before Nefarious was complete, we knew that the next step in the journey would be investigating the cultural forces that are fueling a toxic sexuality.

In America, young adult attitudes regarding sex are most visibly on display in the context of college spring break, which has come to epitomize the casual sex phenomenon, and — most importantly — has become representative of what’s now considered acceptable sexual behavior among many young adults.

Every March, coastal cities brace for thousands of spring breakers that swarm in from across the country. For many, spring break is a time to go all out—drugs, alcohol, partying and sex. There is no place more iconic for spring break than South Florida. It is essentially ground-zero for any party-goer looking for a good time, and things quickly get out of control.

In 2015, Panama City Beach, Florida made headlines when a woman was gang-raped in broad daylight on the beach while onlookers did nothing. The perpetrators were students at Troy University there for spring break. Bay County Sheriff Frank McKeithen said, “This is happening in broad daylight with hundreds of people seeing and hearing what is happening, and they are more concerned about spilling their beer than somebody being raped.”

After spending time shooting on-the-ground conversations with spring breakers and witnessing firsthand the rampant culture of sexual assault this environment was breeding, it became clear that we needed to tell this story.

RELATED: Is There a Connection Between Porn and Rape?

In Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution, documentary filmmaker and Exodus Cry founder, Benjamin Nolot, took to the flooded beaches of spring break in an attempt to shed light on the underpinnings of this toxic environment. Available on Netflix, Liberated follows the journey of college students during their spring break revelries, offering an insightful look into their attitudes and behaviors regarding sex, the expectation of women to conform to an idealized sexual image, and the normalization of sexual violation.

The film has drawn praise from a wide range of viewers, including celebrities, survivors of sexual assault, educators, and even college students who once embraced the hookup culture lifestyle. Below are just a handful of honest viewer reactions to Liberated.

Media and Celebrity Reactions to Liberated

“​​Go watch “Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution” on @Netflix when you get moment. It’s heavy, but I think a necessary watch for us all. 🙏” – Actor, Zachary Levi, @zacharylevi

I wish I had seen this before going on spring break… Hugely impactful, goosebump-inducing. I’ve never felt something so much… It was such a good film, because when you leave feeling this way and wanting to talk about it… even though it was a terrible situation and terrible things happened, I’m so glad I watched it.” — Buzzfeed’s Adultsh1t Podcast, Kelsey Darragh

This powerful and unflinching slice of life could be seen as a useful PSA and essential viewing…Liberated aims to reinforce the empowering anti-sexual assault crusade by creating and encouraging brutally honest conversations.” —Tara Fass, Mogul

Survivors and Advocates Rave About Liberated

Disconnected sexual encounters fueled by primal drives of lust, anger, and conquest begin here… They are amplified off the charts in prostitution and porn, but they begin here. To eradicate and abolish exploitation we must examine the roots within our culture. Liberated reveals the path between rape culture’s expression and its roots, laying the groundwork for healing to begin.” – Jewell, sex trafficking survivor and advocate

…raw and bold… This film will be on my must watch list once my new module on popular culture starts.” — Alison Phillips, Adjunct College Instructor & Coordinator of the Kansas City Coalition Against Sexual Exploitation

RELATED: Trafficking Survivor: I Was Changed Watching Liberated

I want to tell you all how incredible this movie has been for me. As a woman who feels society’s pressures and has experienced sexual assault, I can tell you just how crucial this documentary is. I originally saw an ad for it on Facebook so my roommates and I decided to throw it on in the background while we hung out.

Fifteen minutes in, I was obsessed and made everyone sit down and watch with me. I saw so much in the film’s characters that resonated with me. I felt like I knew the guys objectifying and violating the women as well as the women who were forced to deal with it.

In a culture that differs so intensely between sexual expectations and modest values, this film is a powerful look into the truth behind growing up in America (and likely many other countries as well). Thank you so much for creating this film, it is my favorite movie and I have told everyone close to me so much about it that they probably feel like they’ve already seen it (but I’ll make them watch it anyway). Keep telling our truth.” —Maddie Parise

Liberated doesn’t shy away from the truth. It reveals in such a loving way so as not to heap shame, anger, or aggression toward the people who may be taking part in these destructive behaviors. And it leaves us with questions. It causes us to take a hard look in the mirror and at our culture. We must decide what to do with that information. Have I turned a blind eye? Am I part of the problem? What can I do to make it better?” – Elizabeth Wellinghoff, victim advocate

A Filmmaker’s Review

I remember sitting in the theater the first time I saw the film behind an older couple. For the first 30 minutes of the film, the laughter from them was audibly jarring as male students at spring break plotted their way into sexual encounters with any girl they could find. And while it’s disturbing to see, we’ve been culturally desensitized to the kind of male behavior so IT IS entertaining. I found myself laughing too.

45 minutes later, there was no sound from the audience. No laughter from the couple in front of me. Because you begin to feel your own complicity, whether intentional or not, in the creation of a culture that relegates sex to a transaction as opposed to a meaningful experience. It’s deftly edited, balancing the ups and downs of the spring break experience with a didactic look at how we culturally arrived at a place where women are seen as objects as opposed to individuals. How do men and women perceive themselves? How do they truly perceive each other?” – IMDb reviewer, Evan Vetter

College Student Reviews

Was on Netflix with my buddies tonight and typed in ‘spring break’ thinking we would find some funny raunchy spring break movie to watch. Ended up clicking play on your movie and had half of us guys in tears at the end of it… convicted of things we’ve done and this sickening culture we have encouraged… Breaks my heart to really hear and understand what these girls our age go through. I will be sharing your documentary with whoever I can. Thanks so much I can honestly say this changed my outlook on life.” — Zach S.

RELATED: College Partier: Liberated Brought Me to Tears

Go watch liberated on Netflix right now. This movie is not about our parents or our future children. This is about us. You and me bro. We can’t sleep on this movie and its content. Please just take my word and watch it.” – Emma McCormick

As a student who has made many of these mistakes I believe all college students should watch this from start to finish and learn what it means to live a more fulfilling life not only sexually but socially. If we do not adapt we are bound to repeat…” —Netflix reviewer

Watch Liberated

*Trigger Warning: This film contains raw depictions of hookup culture and sexual assault.

Coming Soon! Watch the Sequel, Liberated: After Spring Break

The story isn’t done yet! The sequel to Liberated: The New Sexual Revolution, this four-part documentary series follows Kimmy and Shay as they reflect on the toxicity of hookup culture and share their stories with college students across America and the United Kingdom. Through introspection and candid conversation, this film answers many of the tough questions raised by the first film, offering hope in the midst of today’s cultural climate of sexual violation.

This film series will release on our Magic Lantern Pictures YouTube channel. Subscribe to stay in the loop!

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