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Monday, October 8, 2018

'Rodents of Unusual Size' Director to Participate in a Q&A at the Capitol Theatre

Posted By on Mon, Oct 8, 2018 at 12:01 PM

One of the more unusual films on the schedule for the Capitol Theatre’s annual Fall Doc Film Festival, Rodents of Unusual Size centers on the giant 20-pound rats that have invaded Southern Louisiana.

It screens at 7:30 p.m. on Wednesday, Oct. 17. Co-director Quinn Costello will attend the screening and participate in a Q&A afterwards.

He says the film offered him and co-directors Jeff Springer and Chris Metzler the chance to showcase the region’s rich culture as well as call attention to an environmental issue.

“We all had a background in making environmental films, and yet we wanted to do something that was kind of an expression of our love for Louisiana but also something that was a little bit more offbeat and had a lot of joy in it,” he says in a recent phone interview. “A lot of environmental films can be depressing. We wanted to bring something that was more cultural and shined a light on what is going on in Louisiana at the moment as it’s changing rapidly. It’s not just the nutria, though we find the animal fascinating. It’s about all the other people whose lives were touched by the animal. That’s what we wanted to tell the story about.”

The movie opens with a scene in which nutria hunter Thomas Gonzales takes the film crew into a swamp near Delacroix Island to track a few of the orange-toothed creatures. The guy knows the swamp well, and it's not long before they've found a few of the over-sized rodents.

The film also includes interviews with a variety of characters, including people who interact with the nutria in a variety of ways. Some make bow ties out of their fur, and others cook them and eat them.

“We met so many different types of folks making this film,” says Costello. “Everyone is surviving in their own way. The thing that blew my mind is that all these folks are on the precipice. A lot of these places aren’t going to be there in 15 to 20 years. These people are living in despair, but there is this joy and serendipity to their lives. People live and die by the cycles of the season down there. They’re dependent on the natural environment. That means some days you will do well and catch crab and shrimp. Some days, it doesn't work out. “

The filmmakers used time lapse photography and “more atmospheric naturalist sequences” to immerse viewers in the Louisiana environment.

“We wanted it to have that feeling of connection to the natural world,” says Costello. “We want it to be propelled and have these moments when you get absorbed into the natural rhythms of the world down there."

Costello says he wasn’t sure how the film would be received at environmental film festivals. After all, it shows the nutria getting hunted and even advocates for such an approach to containing them.

“Some people are initially put off by these enormous rats, but they fall in love with the people and stick around for the entire film,” says Costello. “We’ve been in over 75 film festivals. The place I enjoyed seeing it do well is at environmental film festivals. It’s a movie with lots of hunting, and animals are killed, so I didn’t know how it would be received, but people have been open to it. It is still an environmental film but from a different perspective.”

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