2017 Milwaukee Film Festival – Review – RAT FILM
RAT FILM is partly an act of provocation to the powers that be and partly a sincere exploration of the issues of urban segregation, poverty, and urban decay plaguing the City of Baltimore. It’s also a film that provides you with more information about the rat than you’ll probably ever need. It’s an essay film with a lot that’s urgently on its mind. Placing RAT FILM in the Competition category at the Milwaukee Film Festival is an obvious statement by the programming team.
If you’ve ever seen THE WIRE, the portrait of poverty and the systemic failures that have befallen Baltimore, and other cities like it, should be no secret. It’s probably also unsurprising that the highest areas of poverty also have rat problems. And there’s no real solution to either problem represented. Sure, Baltimore has rat exterminators on staff, overworked with limited resources, that will solve a single property infestation if someone complains, but can’t really tackle the area wide roots of the issues. There are rat vigilantes too, with again very meager results. And there are researchers, pet owners, etc. that have different relationships with rats. All of the surrounding material is interesting in its own right, although you sometimes wonder what it has to do with the central thesis.
That central thesis is most strongly hit when RAT FILM speaks about redlining and how it aligns with poverty and rat infestations today. A series of overlays is pretty damning evidence that racist policies of years past still have lingering effects. And it’s not hard to extrapolate those effects to other cities with a history of segregation like Milwaukee. That thesis gives RAT FILM a broader reach and a more urgent point.
RAT FILM, beyond the provocative thesis, is also very aggressively shot and edited. It’s raw and in your face, but also well composed. It’s one of the more cutting edge films I’ve seen at this year’s Milwaukee Film Festival with a strong score too. And, it has a bit of a sense of humor. Sometimes, it’s a gallows sense of humor, but it’s there. I expect the filmmakers appreciate the irony that in your face name of RAT FILM is still probably more commercially viable than if it was entitled URBAN POVERTY FILM or REDLINING.
I expect RAT FILM will be a strong contender in the Competition category at the Milwaukee Film Festival, although perhaps too provocative and in your face to win universal acclaim. Still, if you want a provocative documentary to talk about afterwards, RAT FILM is exactly what you’re looking for.
RAT FILM will be showing once more at the 2017 Milwaukee Festival on Saturday, October 7, 2017 at 10:30 pm at the Oriental Theatre. Tickets can be purchased online at the Milwaukee Film Festival website or at box office locations at various venues. The 2017 Milwaukee Film Festival runs from September 28 to October 12, 2017.