(Rabbit Hash is playing a special engagment run at Flagship University Village 3, 3323 S. Hoover St., Los Angeles, CA 90007 until September 6th, 2004.)
Hell Mission Statement Lost File #X: Rabbit Hash – The Center of the Universe.
"Am I being hoodwinked? What is this, and why am I watching it?" All of these questions raced through my failing brain as I plopped in front of Rabbit Hash, a new documentary about the so-called center of the Universe. Where is this bastion of hope; often considered a way station for intelligent beings across the galaxy?
Who lives there? Well, as two little girls tell it...
"We're not Hill Jacks."
Yeah, you'd think a backwoods pockmark flung far out of the reaches of Big City life would be chock-full of hayseeds. Nope. The small town of Rabbit Hash houses some brilliant folk; as peculiar as they may seem. One guy holds about 8 patents for hyper-intelligent computerized banking equipment. Just down the road lives the man that created a specialized glove for picking up dog doo. There are also a couple of well-known artists dodging the property; a few of which created the infamous hard shoulder "Dog Stand" (the propping-up of road kill as a curbside attraction). These people are so smart; they elected a dog as mayor. Uh-huh. You heard that right. Rabbit Hash's real claim to fame is Goofy, a fifteen year old mix breed mutt that won the 1998 Mayoral Election.
I'm not sh*tting you. I, too, sat watching this documentary play out; bewildered by its strange calmness. This had to be a joke, or a slight poke in the ribs. Surely the filmmaker, Jude Gerard Prest, was aiming for Christopher Guest territory. He hits that vibe like a jackhammer, mumbling bits of hard cement to the surface. Rabbit Hash actually reigns supreme; it's far more entertaining than A Mighty Wind or Best in Show. Thing is, Prest claims his tale is real. To quote his website, "This is a true story...Trust us, we couldn't make this stuff up."
At first, I didn't believe him. But as I sat, watching the film, a chilling air of familiarity crept over my skin. I slowly started to connect with the people chattering away on screen. The ebb and flow of the narrative so pulled me in, I suddenly decided that I, too, wanted to live in Rabbit Hash. Bright beams of country life shot into my eyes, and I was possessed by an erstwhile love for these people and this town. I'd almost say that Prest's film is damaging. He's not making fun of this odd, out of the way place. He's actually concocted a mighty brochure that sells this hole-in-the-wall locale to jaded suburbanites like naked pictures to a blind man. Tell me you don't want to pack up your car and move there minutes after those end credits roll. I wanted to do just that. And it was then I realized Rabbit Hash really is the Center of the Universe. I could feel its magnetic powers fleeing from the electricity in the wall and into the enamel of my brittle bones.
A rush of retarded city dwellers are bound to flock and invade this tiny population of 200. Prest's film makes you want to go there. He's opened the floodgates, and as soon as a wider audience is keen to this quiet little burg, I'm sure they'll ruin it. But then, two quick and clever locals have swept up all the land with a swift money hand, so it might be kinda hard to move there for a longtime stay. It's difficult to tell from watching this documentary, but I'm guessing the people of Rabbit Hash really don't need our tourism handouts.
Despite the quantity of bad teeth on hand, I'd say this tight community is pretty happy with their chosen lifestyle. That really comes through, and it's quit contagious.
A slight smile remained on my lips for the entire duration of this well-edited 82 minute buzz. The joy was so heart-binding, I didn't even well-up when the story of Goofy's death encroached on the structured through-line. It was an event that "Would make a glass eye cry," As one native tells it. Poor Goof was euthanized. He had testicular cancer, and a few other debilitating aliments. The dog was given a eulogy and a farewell fair, but the poor corpse was tossed into a landfill. Unbeknownst to most local folks, that's what happens to stray dogs when they hit the Vet's office on death's dime.
We actually learn quite a lot about Goofy's history. He was thrown in jail. He was promiscuous, fathering at least a hundred pups. He liked to roam the countryside, going from one house to the next barking a quick hello. A prime candidate for Mayor; his story is interesting. But maybe not textured enough to float a feature length motion picture. At first, Rabbit Hash's Political canine yarn seems like a one-joke premise that, while attention getting, threatens to fall flat after about thirty minutes.
The good news is; Goofy's tale is just the thread upon which a much larger narrative hangs. The jumping off point is this strange election. It opens the door to what else actually exists here, in the Center of the Universe. Goofy's paw print is stamped firmly on the proceedings, and I'm sure it's what dragged the filmmaker towards this community, camera in tow. But once he starts to ask questions, he uncovers a mysterious, almost fairytale like land full of quirky, heartfelt individuals.
As the documentary progresses, we learn about this picturesque landscape that's small enough to fit on the head of a sewing needle, and the mystique that goes along with its dirt and grass. A gasp of air is breathed in, and the collective conscious that would breach the idea of voting a dog into office is explored. A history lesson exploits itself, and entertains us with real life floods, a community store that stands as the town's only real attraction, and an outhouse that has a pee funnel on its side. Mostly, it's the people that sell the piece. They make the town what it is, and they help to create a one of a kind documentary that everyone should see.
The movie already has a built-in audience. Dog lovers are a tight-knit group that sigh and giggle at the simple thought of a pooch dodging and dancing on a porch blanket. Those people will eat this up with a spoon. But its not just for them, this has a wide appeal that's eager and gracious. I'm not particularly fond of other people's pets. I'd just as soon kick someone else's dog as take care of it. Somehow, this small thing won me over. Rabbit Hash is going up against Fahrenheit 9/11 in hopes of achieving that much coveted Academy Award. It's a tough year for Documentaries, what with that heavy hitter in the field.
Still, for my money, Rabbit Hash is the better beat. It's infectious, and fun. Something Michael Moore's film is not. And you know me...
If it's not fun, I don't want it in my face!
Go see this movie. Or don't. I don't care.