If the very idea of rats scampering around in your personal space makes you just a little queasy (it sure does me), be forewarned: In this exclusive clip from Theo Anthony’s Rat Film, Baltimore resident Matthew Fouse explains, and then demonstrates, how he fights the varmints’ encroachment on his property.
After showing off the assortment of weapons he uses against the rats, Fouse spots on dart under his fence, and follows it outside his gate in hopes of killing it with a blow gun. But for all its interest in the city’s untamed rodent population, Rat Film—which features 3D animation and computer-generated imagery alongside its verité-style handheld camerawork, and comes with a score of “rat-generated theremin and player piano sounds” by composer and electronic musician Dan Deacon—is also a portrait of the long, destructive reach of racial segregation, redlining, and environmental racism. As Paste’s Dom Sinacola points out, the film treats its subject “as a microcosm of the still-failing American Urban Experiment”:
Rat Film is ostensibly about Baltimore’s rat problem, about how the City has historically dealt with and studied and used parts of their poorest neighborhoods to address pest control, trial-and-erroring over decades, but as Edmund the amicable exterminator with the Baltimore City Rat Rubout Program tells us, “There ain’t never been a rat problem in Baltimore; there’s always been a people problem.”
Rat Film premieres on Independent Lens on Monday, Feb. 26 at 10 p.m. on PBS. Check your local listings.