What connects racial segregation, pest control, mapping systems and WWII fears of the bubonic plague? Rats.
Digging into Baltimore’s historic attempts – and failures – to deal with these notorious rodents, Theo Anthony’s genre-bending documentary explores the underbelly of a city with deeper issues than its rat infestation. From gritty street-level views to computer-generated landscapes, from harrowing reportage to utopian mythology, Rat Film finds humanity in the most inhuman situations.
Kick-started by cellphone footage of a rat trapped in his trashcan, Anthony’s investigation of his hometown encounters street rats, lab rats, rat lovers and rat exterminators. Neighbourhoods barely recovered from over a century of segregation reveal tragic and comic stories – stories told not only by their human residents and rodent pests, but also hidden structures of demography and city planning. Here, zip codes determine people’s livelihoods: “New maps, old maps, same maps”. As the film progresses, it becomes clear how technology and science have shaped the blueprint for social inequality in the city.
Opening the evening ahead of the main feature, Beach Umbrella (2019) by Sjoerd ter Borg & Mark Jan van Tellingen finds another pernicious system of control in Seoul.