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Truly CA: Rabbit Fever

Airs Thursday, October 3, 2013 at 11 p.m. on KPBS TV

Above: Johnny Haussener with rabbits. In 2005, he was awarded the Pennsylvania State Rabbit King, and in 2007 was on the winning judging team at ARBA nationals. Since then, he has become licensed ARBA Judge #887 and the current President of the Mason Dixon Rex Rabbit Breeders Association.

You’ve heard of dog and horse shows, but are you familiar with rabbit shows? "Rabbit Fever" is a coming-of-age story that follows six competitors as they strive to win the top title at the National American Rabbit Convention – an event that draws more than 20,000 rabbits in one building, the largest mass of rabbits in the world. While adult members of the rabbit habit compete for BEST IN SHOW, the teenage enthusiasts quest for an even more coveted honor in the rabbit community – RABBIT KING and QUEEN!

Courtesy of Hotpopcorn LLC.

"Rabbit Fever" director Amy Do filming rabbits.

Courtesy of Hotpopcorn LLC.

Collage of rabbit breeds.

Courtesy of Hotpopcorn LLC./ ARBA

Black and white photo of a past gathering of the American Rabbit Breeders Association, Inc. (ARBA). In 1952 the national organization changed it’s name to American Rabbit Breeders Association, Inc.

Rabbit Fever Merchandise

Wear your “Rabbit Fever” with pride! You can purchase official Rabbit Fever clothing items – perfect for fans of the film, comics artist Jeffrey Brown or rabbits in general! Adult men and women shirts are created using American Apparel clothing.

Director Amy Do captured over 150 hours of footage, documenting the same rabbit enthusiasts at the American Rabbit Breeder’s Association National Convention over the course of five years. This film marks the official world premiere into the background of the ARBA (American Rabbit Breeders Association) and the rabbit show industry.

Amy initially produced "Rabbit Fever" as a 20-minute documentary short for her film class while studying at the University of Southern California. It wasn’t until Academy-Award nominated instructor, Chuck Braverman (director of the documentary, "Curtain Call"), approached her after class and asked if he could cut a promo version of the film to pitch to television networks that Amy felt encouraged to flesh out the subject and make it feature-length.

The reason behind making a film about rabbits in the first place? “I used to be one of them.” Amy states and laughs, referring to the passionate people that appear in "Rabbit Fever." At age 11, Amy had cared for two pet Dutch rabbits of her own, taking pride in the fact that they followed her around everywhere.

Later on, at age 20, Amy decided that she missed having rabbits and decided to raise a couple of purebred Dwarf Hotots out of her college apartment. “My landlord didn’t mind. He was too intrigued by the sight of them to worry about the fact that pets weren’t really allowed in the building,” Amy admits. “Of course, I think the little doll couch that I purchased for them to lounge on might have thrown him off a bit.”

Although Amy never intended on entering her rabbits in competition, she was able to meet a variety of warm, welcoming members of the American Rabbit Breeders Association through her research on the Internet. They were only too happy to help educate Amy about the proper care of her rabbits, along with sparking her curiosity in the rabbit show industry. “After I attended my first local rabbit show in Pomona, Calif., I knew it was an experience that I had to tell people about. Film just happened to be the easiest medium to do that.”

However, "Rabbit Fever" is not just about having a good-looking animal that wins a trophy and a Best in Show title. “When I made my first visit to the 2003 National Convention in Wichita, Kansas – first – I was blown away by the size of the event. Can you imagine 20,000 rabbits in one showroom? After the initial shock, I started talking to the people there. I admired how much passion and drive they had, especially for a hobby that not a lot of outsiders would understand. What really interested me the most was the teenage members – how most kids their age would probably be hanging out at the mall, watching movies or playing video games, but instead, these teens were using their free time to study rabbits! What was behind all of this hard work? That’s where I finally found my story – how, who and what was this title of National Rabbit King and Queen that these kids were striving for so diligently?”

"Rabbit Fever" is on Facebook, and you can follow @rabbitfever on Twitter. The film is now available on DVD and video on demand on your PS3, Xbox, Kindle Fire, iPad, PC and other devices.

KQED's TRULY CA: OUR STATE, OUR STORIES is an exciting showcase for the best documentary films about California made by independent filmmakers.

Video

Rabbit Fever Trailer

Above: You’ve heard of dog and horse shows, but are you familiar with rabbit shows? "Rabbit Fever" is a coming-of-age story that follows six competitors as they strive to win the top title at the National American Rabbit Convention – an event that draws more than 20,000 rabbits in one building, the largest mass of rabbits in the world. While adult members of the rabbit habit compete for BEST IN SHOW, the teenage enthusiasts quest for an even more coveted honor in the rabbit community – RABBIT KING and QUEEN!