Planet In Focus 2018: Our Review of ‘Rodents of Unusual Size’

Planet In Focus 2018: Our Review of ‘Rodents of Unusual Size’

Finally, a documentary about nutria, which I’ve never heard of and I now have ambivalent feelings about. Some animation sequences with Wendell Pierce’s narration explains how the species thrived in Louisiana to the locals’ chagrin.

A Tabasco heir introduced the South American species to the bayou. He hoped that their fur will bring revenue to the region. But fur has had a bad reputation since the 1970s, which means that the rodents multiplied, as animals do.

Rodents of Unusual Size, then shows the irony of human intervention, as we hurt ourselves despite of our best intentions. And how such interventions have seismic effects. It depicts a very real community’s multiple reactions to these large rodents.

It depicts, firstly, the different and unusual ways that citizens keep the rodent population stable. The state never sleeps because of them. The documentary puts the spotlight on officials who hunt these creatures during nighttime.

The movie dedicates that first half to the the stereotypical Southern way of dealing with animals. As it continues however, it shows the innovation that comes with living in Louisiana. Life there isn’t easy but they stay anyway.

Most of the hunters hunt them, take their tails and throw the rest of their bodies back to the water. But some residents see that as wasteful. Some chefs have decided that nutria might make good food. One cook has even decided to jokingly lie that it’s not nutria, it’s just chicken.

The film shows the parallels with eating nutria and the general way that a community deals with invasive species. The thought of eating them unnerves people at first but some, because of a lack of choice, embrace them. Audiences can also see animal skinning here without judgment. There’s an openness and authenticity here that’s rare in an environmental doc.

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While Paolo Kagaoan is not taking long walks in shrubbed areas, he occasionally watch movies and write about them. His credentials are as follows: he has a double major in English and Art History. This means that, for example, he will gush at the art direction in the Amityville house and will want to live there, which is a terrible idea because that house has ghosts. Follow him @paolokagaoan on Instagram but not while you're working.
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