Part pest control how-to, part social science study, part apocalyptic fantasy, Theo Anthony's Rat Film looks at Baltimore through the lens of a rodent infestation, and how it is still linked to a fateful home insurance policy move in the early 1900s to classify areas of Baltimore. More rambling than might be good for it, the film nevertheless is a interesting essay on the price a city has paid for the resulting social division, and the ongoing, splintered fight to deal with the consequences. Ontario law requires that people going into the theatre be warned that they are going to see violence inflicted upon animals in the film, even if rats aren't as typically sympathetic and endearing as dogs or cats or pandas, but if fishing for rats might be as cathartic for you as it is for some of the characters in Rat Film, then you'll make it through the screening just fine.

Rat Film, image courtesy of Hot DocsRat Film, image courtesy of Hot Docs

Rat Film's second and third screenings are this afternoon at 3:15 PM at the Hart House Theatre (tickets still available as of time of writing) and on Saturday, May 6 8 PM at the Fox Theatre.

***

We mainly highlight Hot Docs films that take on urban issues, but we end up seeing more than just those as we look for ones that fit our mandate. To try to frame Feras Fayyad's Last Men In Aleppo as an urban issues film, however, would be to do this extraordinary film—and Sundance Grand Jury Prize winner—a massive disservice. Yes, you are witness to a city in unbelievable distress, and the scenes of Aleppo's destruction are stunning and heartbreaking, but Last Men is about the incredible dedication of the White Helmets, those who risk their lives to save others who have been buried in the rubble of collapsed buildings following aerial bombing. Haunting, compelling, and eyeopening, it's a film that you will not soon forget.

Last Men In Aleppo, image courtesy of Hot DocsLast Men In Aleppo, image courtesy of Hot Docs

Last Men In Aleppo's second and third screenings are this afternoon at 3 PM at the Isabel Bader Theatre (tickets still available as of time of writing) and 6 PM on Sunday, May 7 at the TIFF Bell Lightbox.

Our previous review of films is here: Hot Docs 2017: The Workers' Cup and In Time to Come

Our preview of 12 Hot Docs films is here: Hot Docs 2017 Offers Plenty for the Urban Enthusiast