$12 General Admission
“There’s never been a rat problem in Baltimore, it’s always been a people problem.” In his dazzling directorial debut, Theo Anthony uses the rat as a passageway into the dark, complicated history of Baltimore. A unique blend of history, sci-fi, poetry and portraiture, Rat Film brilliantly breaks documentary norms and dissects how racial segregation, redlining, and environmental racism built the Baltimore we see today.
Baltimore has a rat infestation. As a result, they are part of the daily lives of the city’s residents. Some have learned to live with rats, domesticating them as pets. Others hunt them for sport, using blow guns and fishing rods. At John Hopkins University, scientists have prolifically used rats as test subjects. At the center of the documentary is Harold Edmond, who works for the city as head rat exterminator. As someone who spends most of his time driving from house to house in Baltimore’s lowest-income neighborhoods, Edmond knows his job is only providing a temporary solution to a problem that is innately human.
What begins as an examination of our interactions with rats – portraits of rat afflicted citizens, use of rats in labs, development of rat poison – becomes a deeper exploration of Baltimore. Anthony investigates the history of the city, and the systemic racism that established the low-income and predominantly black neighborhoods that are still plagued by rats today. In one of the film’s most shocking sequences, 2015 Baltimore city statistics are superimposed over old redlining maps, exposing a haunting correlation to present-day urban issues and the neighborhoods formed long ago.
Frenetic in its focus, the film thrusts the viewer into a kaleidoscopic look at Baltimore, allowing the viewer to create their own connections between scenes. Despite the title, the core of Rat Film is deeply human – an unflinching anthropological look at the racial injustices entrenched into the city’s past. With a haunting score by Baltimore native Dan Deacon, Rat Film is a chilling documentary that refuses any easy answers.
“It’s one of the most memorable inspirations in recent cinema.” – Richard Brody, The New Yorker
“… one of the year’s greatest cinematic achievements. … [Rat Film] is infuriating, provocative and thrillingly audacious, cementing Anthony’s status as a major new artistic voice.” – Matt Fagerholm, RogerEbert.com