There’s many ways of telling a story and one of the best is the documentary where facts are provided and you become the judge of the content. This is the case of Rat Film a fact based film on the rat population in Baltimore, Maryland and the correlation between over population, lack of adequate housing, unemployment and opportunity. In many ways the film reveals the problem of inner-city unbalance and oppression. The film opens Sunday October 15th in Los Angeles at the Downtown Independent for a two week run with a national release to follow.
In 2015 Theo Anthony put together Rat Film and found some disturbing information about the city of Baltimore. One of the oldest cities in America, Baltimore was founded in 1729 and has grown to a population of over 600,000. Of this number 63% are African American and live in areas that are crowded. High crime rates, vacant homes, neighborhoods below the poverty level and high rates of unemployment double the national average. In some areas of the city called “redline” blocks the average life expectancy is below the city average.
The film makes a case that “There’s never been a rat problem in Baltimore, it’s always been a people problem.” For example the film states; “In 1911 the city of Baltimore enacted a resolution to preserve peace, preventing conflict and ill feeling between the white and colored races in Baltimore City by providing separate city blocks by white and black.” Each would have their own churches, residences and schools. The law prohibited blacks from moving into white majority neighborhoods and whites from moving into majority black neighborhoods. It became the country’s first legislation of its kind. (Six years later it was stuck down by the Supreme Court).
The film goes on to show absurdities and problems within the oppressed areas of Baltimore. But the best statements are made by Harold Edmond who works for the city as a “rat rubout” control person. One of the few left, Edmond goes around to homes that have called with a rat problem. He lays down a powder that will only kill rats and moves on to the next appointment. He says “You are going to find the rats where the most uneducated people are, the ones who have the least resources. The people have no dreams, no aspirations, just survival. That’s basically where you are going to find the rats.”
The film goes on to give more insight on why the city was segregated, how the white establishment controlled them and where they are today. On a positive note in 2016 Governor Larry Hogan announced that $700 million has been set aside to tear down thousands of vacant buildings in the “redline” areas of Baltimore and replace them with new developments.
Rat Film has been not been rated by the MPAA, but contains language and some disturbing scenes.
FINAL ANALYSIS: Although the report hits home, further research should be made to find out if Governor Hogan has made progress with his $700 million project. (3 out of 5 stars)
Additional Film Information:
Directed by: Theo Anthony
MPAA Rating: Not Rated, contains language
Running Time: 1 hr. 22 min.
Release Date: October 14, 2017
Distributed by: Cinema Guild