Described by film critic Eric Kohn as “careen[ing] from scientific observation and historical overview to spiritual inquiry with a freewheeling approach that never ceases to surprise,” Rat Film is a profound — and profoundly troubling — meditation on the disturbing congruity between discourses on race and rat removal in Baltimore. Filmmaker Theo Anthony interweaves the story of present-day efforts to exterminate the city’s rats with Baltimore’s historical practices of brutal racial segregation and its former “chief rat catcher’s” admiration for eugenics. Narrated by a detached, seemingly inhuman voice, the film reveals the ways in which racialized thinking so often underlies seemingly scientific planning and public health policy. Far from neutral, such policies, in Anthony’s telling, institutionalize racism and continue restrict the very lives and livelihoods of Black Baltimoreans.
Theo Anthony is a writer, photographer, and filmmaker based in Baltimore, MD. His work been featured by the New York Times, The Atlantic, New Yorker, BBC World News, and other international media outlets. His films have received premieres at the Toronto International Film Festival, Locarno International Film Festival, Rotterdam International Film Festival, SXSW, and Anthology Film Archives. In 2015, he was named one of Filmmaker Magazine’s “25 New Faces of Independent Film”. His first feature, RAT FILM, was released by Cinema Guild and Visit Films in 2017 to critical acclaim, with Richard Brody of the New Yorker calling it “one of the most extraordinary, visionary inspirations in the recent cinema”.
Paige Glotzer is a Prize Fellow in Economics, History, and Politics at Harvard University. She received her Ph.D. from Johns Hopkins University. Her research is on the history of housing segregation in the nineteenth and twentieth century and brings together discussions of political economy, cultural history, and the spatial construction of difference. Her book, Building Suburban Power: The Business of Exclusionary Housing Markets, 1890-1960, forthcoming from Columbia University Press charts how suburban developers, including Baltimore’s Roland Park Company, ushered in modern housing segregation with the help of transnational financiers, real estate institutions, and public policymakers. The effects of their efforts continue to be felt today.
Film runtime: 82 minutes
Co-sponsored by UnionDocs