The award-winning documentary about a gardener from Hillside, New Jersey who made global headlines in 1994 for killing a rat will be screened for the first time in Union County on Sunday, December 6 at 7 p.m. at Hamilton Stage in Rahway at 360 Hamilton Street. Director and Screen Writer, Andrew Ruotolo will lead a brief panel discussion with Union County luminaries – audience participation is welcome. Suggested admission is $5 at the door.
The charge: murder. The setting: Hillside, NJ ’94. The accused: Frank Balun. The weapon: a broomstick. The victim: a rat?! The 18-minute film “The Rat Slayer of Hillside NJ,” documents the case against the late Frank Balun, a Hillside resident and WWII Veteran, who was cited by Lee Bernstein of the Associated Humane Society for killing a rat in his backyard. Balun was charged with animal cruelty for “needlessly abusing a rodent,” and was ordered to appear in court, where he faced six months in jail and a $1,250 fine. (A preview is available here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=V3v3SlAhvqw and the Facebook page is https://www.facebook.com/ratslayerofhillsidenj)
Sponsored by the Union County Board of Chosen Freeholders through the UCACT program, the documentary was directed and produced by a Union County cast that included Ruotolo (Director), Andrew Lessner and Michael Angelo Covino (Producers), and Sean Devaney and Zach Kuperstein (Directors of Photography). Ruotolo, Lessner and Devaney all attended elementary, middle and high school in Westfield together.
The documentary, which was released last year, has been shown at various film festivals, including the Brooklyn Film Festival and Lighthouse Film Festival in Long Beach Island, most recently winning the Documentary Short award at the St. Lawrence International Film Festival in Canada and Upstate New York.