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Rat Film

  • Directed by Theo Anthony
  • United States, 2016, 87 mins., English

Anthony’s debut feature is a clear-eyed, probing examination of twin issues both historically and currently affecting the city of Baltimore: extreme rat infestation and racially-charged redlining practices. Oscillating between these surprisingly linked concepts, Anthony follows several denizens of the city, including semi-obsessive rat hunters, people with pet rats, a neighborly rat-population-control worker, and city administrators, meanwhile deploying a cacophony of diverse visual elements like Google Maps, archival documents, historical maps, and verité camerawork. What begins as a film focused on one city’s ecological problems—which many cities have, of course—ends as a condemnation of a racially-tinged capitalist takeover of huge swaths of landscape, and the ripple effects those disastrous choices created much later. “A compelling case study of a city that believes it can modify an environment without modifying the moorings of all of the individuals who live by means of that environment. This alone is a fine conceit, but what really gives Rat Film its charge is its interest in mapping, and in the ways that maps intervene on the world by representing them.”—Jason Fox, The Brooklyn Rail. “Building upon his investigation into the historical crimes of segregation and contempt for the city’s black residents, Anthony turns a concluding sequence of civic pride and good cheer into a brilliantly light-hearted fantasy of grave import, a radical political utopia conjured with a deft artistic flourish. It’s one of the most extraordinary, visionary inspirations in the recent cinema.”—Richard Brody, The New Yorker.

A Voices in Action film.

 

Genres: Documentary