Reviews and notes
2009 Cracow, Hot Docs Canada, Visions du Reel, Mar del Plata
2010 Melbourne, Paris Festival du Film Polonais.
Academy Awards 2010: Nominated Best Documentary, Short Subjects
This Oscar nominated short is a tall-but-true tale from a rabbit's point of view. The no man's land that was once the eastern side of the Berlin Wall is now the skyscraper center of Berlin. For 28 years, the strip of earth enclosed between the two walls was the safest of enclaves for rabbits. Full of grass, no predators, guards to ensure that no one disturbed them. But sadly, one day, the wall fell... The rabbits' fate serves as a guise for an allegorical tale of a totalitarian system.
– NW Film Forum.
Part nature study, part cold war allegory, Rabbit à la Berlin
examines the human consequences of the Berlin Wall through the startled eyes of the wild rabbits that once flourished in the no man's land on its eastern side. For almost 30 years the animals’ home - a 90-mile strip of succulent grass - was an oasis between Communism and capitalism, a verdant meadow ringed by barbed-wire fences and antitank barriers.
Lured by the vegetable gardens planted after World War II, the starving critters found themselves as trapped as the corralled East Berliners. Their confinement, however, was luxurious: their days spent in a predator-free bunny paradise, their bellies full and their burrows safe in the shadow of the wall. Guards were forbidden to harm them (unlike unfortunate East German escapees, who, according to the film’s narrator, were shot "like rabbits" - just not like these rabbits). World dignitaries peered from atop the wall to marvel at the bunnies' good fortune. Blurred to invisibility, the line between prison and sanctuary was irrelevant; like their human neighbors, the film explains, the creatures were "shut in for their own good".
Teasing and shrewd, Rabbit à la Berlin
is a floppy-eared fable about the uneasy trade-offs between liberty and security. Fondly remembered anecdotes from citizens and former guards alternate with mottled black-and-white photographs and archival film. Employing wily close-ups of twitching whiskers and soaring sentry boxes, the director, Bartek Konopka captures the confusion of the rabbit’s-eye view as circumstances and boundaries change, yoking humans and animals to similar fates. Just as the thousands of rabbits who hopped west after the dismantling of the wall would be decimated by dogs and rabbit-stew lovers, their human counterparts would face an uncertain, post-Communist future.
Brightened by occasional flashes of watery color and the testimonies of rabbit-struck artists (one of whom appears in the film brandishing a ginormous carrot), this cheeky parable plays like a totalitarian Watership Down
. In keeping with that novel’s heroes, the Berlin bunnies - who bore little resemblance to the plump cottontails of pet-shop windows and children’s picture books - were innocent victims forced, through no fault of their own, to endure the perilous search for a new home.
- Jeannette Catsoulis, The New York Times, 7 December 2010.
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