Rabbit a la Berlin: European History, From the Bunnies’ POV


Rejiggering the history of postwar Germany into a Shel Silverstein–ish fairy tale about bunnies, Bartek Konopka’s quasi-doc spins the unlikely yarn of the Berlin Wall rabbit community, as wild bunnies were inadvertently trapped in the “Death Zone” between the two parallel halves upon construction and then happily thrived—and bred, into thousands—for almost 30 years, as East-West tension boiled around them. The little lapine scamps had found their Shangri-La right in the middle of the Cold War, and were lovingly photographed by entranced tourists on either side of the schism. If Werner Herzog remade Watership Down, this would be his template. Konopka, a Polish filmmaker, uses vintage footage mixed with contemporary recollections by photogs and old Wall guards, and narrates a wry bunny-p.o.v. parable of paradise found, lost (with the East German election of Erich Honecker and the commencement of a bunny genocide) and refound again in the Wall-free Berlin of 1989. Nominated last year for a short-doc Oscar, the featurette is a lovely modern mini-myth, sarcastic and Beatrix Potter–y in turn. Filling out the show at Film Forum is Loss, Israeli filmmaker Nurith Aviv’s essay-short interviews of modern scholars (beginning with Hannah Arendt footage) about what the loss of Jews meant for German culture.