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Micro-Wave Cinema Series: Rat Film (free)

  • Vilas Hall 821 University Avenue Madison, WI, 53706 United States (map)

Not to fly under the radar in the weekend's densely packed campus screening schedule is the largely American showcase of micro-budget films, Micro-Wave Cinema Series, which shares UW Cinematheque's regular venue, 4070 Vilas Hall, on select Sundays. Whether he's focusing on subversive narrative features or enlightening documentaries, programmer Brandon Colvin has generally leaned towards work that is fiercely defined by the character of its environment and location, like last year's most moving ethnographic double-feature Field Niggas (in Harlem) and Buffalo Juggalos (in western New York state). Theo Anthony's Rat Film closely follows their example in a similar observational style while also dramatically developing a thesis in an essay format that conveys the urban rat infestation as a window to Baltimore's residential segregation and racism. In the trailer, a local exterminator firmly and succinctly states his stance: "It ain't ever been a rat problem in Baltimore. It's always been a people problem. And that ain't gonna change until you educate the people." These haunting words provoke Anthony's curiosity and intensive look at issues festering in Maryland's largest city and port, including the police's involvement in the death of black men like Freddie Gray. Rat Film's director, who grew up just south of Baltimore in Annapolis, naturally continues to spiral outward in his research, shedding light on an insidious and elaborate network of historical and present events. It's as if he's drawing equally from the microcosmic intrigue of a crime drama like The Wire while reaching for the high-minded philosophy of art-house director Chris Marker (Sans Soleil) in narration and cinematography that roams homesteads and alleyways alike. Dan Deacon's soundtrack surprisingly keeps pace with Anthony's findings, shifting from pulsating plunderphonics (audio mashups) to meditative, ambient chimes. Stick around after the 80-minute film for a video Q&A chat with the director. —Grant Phipps

Earlier Event: October 29
The Skin I Live In (free)
Later Event: October 30
Tunic, No Funeral, Blessed, Poney