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The Independent Critic

 FEATURING
Jenna Anderson, Jessica Sheetz, Paula Courtney, Johnny Haussener, Jeremy Garrett and Joseph Kim
WRITTEN AND DIRECTED BY
Amy Do
MPAA RATING
NR
RUNNING TIME
83 Mins.
DISTRIBUTED BY
Independent
DVD EXTRAS
Special Limited Edition DVD Available Through Website Includes a Special Collector's Edition Booklet
OFFICIAL WEBSITE
 "Rabbit Fever" a Hare-Raising Story 
 It's still the story that captivates me more than any other story. 

Since I was a young child, I've been enthralled by the Margery Williams classic "The Velveteen Rabbit," a story about a stuffed rabbit who discovers that it is love that makes you real. 

I've never had a pet rabbit. I certainly don't breed rabbits. Truthfully, with my complete lack of coordination due to being a paraplegic I've always been a bit skittish around rabbits. 

It was with a bit of childlike wonder that I found myself watching Amy Do's Rabbit Fever, a true coming-of-age story that follows six competitors striving to win the top title at the National American Rabbit Convention. An event that draws more than 20,000 rabbits in one building, the National American Rabbit Convention is the pinnacle event for adults and children with a passion that some may see as strange yet is driven by commitment, passion and and a drive to excel in something that many people simply don't understand. 

The wonder of Rabbit Fever is that it understands the quirkiness of its topic without ever making light of these young people who are the film's inspiration, heart and soul. While the film is a mere 83 minutes in length, it's such a breezy and entertaining 83 minutes that you find yourself completely captivated by film's end and feeling like you've gotten the chance to get to know a few mighty fine teenagers. 

Rabbit Fever should be familiar to Indianapolis moviegoers as the film was an official selection during the 2010 Heartland Film Festival and has continued to experience quite a bit of film festival success along its cinematic journey. The film is now available as a special Limited Edition DVD and us soon to be released through VOD and other specialty outlets. 

It's a film you truly don't want to miss. 

There are really two worlds of interest at the National American Rabbit Convention - Adults striving for "Best in Show" and their teenage counterparts aiming for the title of Rabbit King and Queen. 

I can hear you snickering. Stop.

Think it sounds like some weird swimsuit competition with bunny ears? Think again. 

Winning Rabbit King and Queen, or a similar title for even younger children and youth, is a rigorous effort. There are five separate areas of judging including breed identification, a written exam, an essay, a judging competition and an oral interview. It's astounding and even a bit heartbreaking to watch these young people who commit their time, energy and social lives to this effort that far transcends what anyone could reasonably call a "hobby." 

Writer/director Amy Do, who acknowledges that she used to be one of these enthusiasts, gives the film such a sense of heart and hope that you can't help but come away from the film admiring and feeling downright attached to these truly delightful young people. Rabbit Fever is refreshingly devoid of any unnecessary conflicts or trumped up histrionics, instead choosing to acknowledge the differences of these participants while celebrating each of them in their own uniqueness. 

It's not that Rabbit Fever shies away from the competitive nature of these events, but Do does a terrific job of avoiding stereotypes in bringing to life the stories of these young people as they gather at the national convention in Indianapolis. 

Do also realizes the inherent lightness of her story and accentuates it beautifully with vibrant and energetic animation from Jonathan Ng and wonderful original music by Eric Holland. The camera work is stellar throughout the film, capturing both the intimate moments and the intricacies of rabbit judging in ways that entertain and inform. 

The young people involved, as well, are refreshingly human and feel surprisingly uncoached. While there's certainly no doubt that the film has been edited, Rabbit Fever seems to present these youth in an authentic light. 

Jenna seems, at first glance, like the most natural "queen" type. Yet, she's presented here as far more than simply a prospective "beauty queen." She's an intelligent, committed and personable young woman who is both competitive in nature, occasionally quite vulnerable and generous with her time. 

Paula, on the other hand, seems like she may be the one who is most likely to spend her life around animals. She, perhaps, "sparkles" a bit less than Jenna yet she exudes a certain love and respect for rabbits. 

Jessica is perhaps the film's most sympathetic youth, a slightly nerdish young woman who is just starting to grow into herself. You can't help but root for her and on at least one occasion she left me in tears. 

The guys are pretty amazing, too.

Johnny seems like the Billy Eliot of the group, a young man who knows he has an interest that isn't particularly masculine but he really doesn't care. 

Jeremy is in his last year of eligibility as a youth for competitive purposes, and he's absolutely committed to the best results possible this final year. 

Among the adults, Joseph Kim is given the most screen time. Kim comes off as deeply committed, knowledgeable and hilariously jaded in segments throughout the film thta humorously yet honestly reveal just how seriously all of this is taken by participants. 

After 83 minutes with all of these folks, I was completely ready for more. 

Rabbit Fever is that rare documentary that entertains, inspires, informs and leaves you wanting to rush home to learn more about its subject. It may not leave you wanting to rush out to get your own rabbit, they are a lot of work after all, but the film will make you appreciate them a whole lot more. 

Now then, you'll have to excuse me. I need to go read "The Velveteen Rabbit." 

© Written by Richard Propes 
The Independent Critic  

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