By Christo Stevens, Senior Editor
Rat Film is a complex and layered documentary. From its mysteriously somber opening line, the tone of the film is firmly set. Theo Anthony crafts an utterly engrossing film about, well… rats. But to say Rat Film is just about rats would only be scratching the surface.
Taking place primarily in Baltimore, the film first focuses on the massive infestation that plagues the city. We see shots of alley ways as dark little shadows scurry through the trash. We see tiny tails poking out of cracks in the walls. We see kids playing in the streets alongside the filthy rodents. But what really makes Rat Film a unique experience is its exploration into not only how and why we have a rat problem to begin with, but how it’s effecting lower class residents within the city. Conversations with individuals living in poverty and among these rats are alarming to say the least. Another crucial point of view we get throughout is from a local member of the Baltimore sanitation team and expert rat killer, Harold Edmond. Edmond has no trouble finding consistent work thanks to the little beasts but worries for those that are stuck living among them.
That’s not all Rat Film is, however. Anthony gives us glimpses into the history and some of the scientific reasoning behind these mass amounts of rodents. With just the right life span, temperament and behaviors they also make perfect subjects for scientific studies. And hey, they’re pests, which makes them harder for the average person to sympathize with. These bits of the documentary really shine and offer a totally unexpected perspective among the rest. These shifts in focus allow for a huge range of scope and ask the audience to consider multiple points of view.
Anthony, who definitely has an eye for quirkiness, is able to showcase so many various aspects of this phenomenon. Stitching together images from both past and present, he keeps it moving but is always changing direction. Rat Film definitely isn’t going to change the mind of a squeamish rat hater, nor is it trying to. Just below the surface of this captivating doc about rodents is a science lesson, an economic lesson and an alarming look into the history of segregation that still haunts the city of Baltimore.
3.5 out of 5 stars