Almost literally “at the end of the world,” at least from the perspective of continental United States and the nearby metropolis of New Orleans, Delacroix Louisiana faces an ongoing crisis due to a purposely imported invasive species, vegetation ravenous nutria—an oversized rat once coveted for its fur, now threatening to erode a major wetland to the point of its disappearance.
The artistic trust, (Quinn Costello, Chris Metzler, Jeff Springer) have fashioned an engaging, informative cautionary tale about the orange-toothed rodent that is threatening to wreak havoc in swamplands, golf courses and cities. For years now, the best way of culling the herd has been by bounty hunting: $5, one tail at a time.
The history is inventively brought to the screen through colourful animation and a well-intoned narration from Wendell Pierce.
The human part of this tautly edited production comes in the form of the Gonzales clan: Thomas and Joan the long-suffering residents who have survived the ravages of many hurricanes, including Katrina, and their son Tommy, who has opted to live 12 miles inland (his daughters have no interest in continuing the family livelihood of fishing and pest extermination). A philosopher with a boat, Thomas understands that his attachment to the place of his birth is stronger than anything else: “When I go, this world don’t owe me nothing.” Magically, when the elder Gonzales takes to the dance floor with this wife or others who “need to learn a few steps,” his sense of self and contentment are precious moments of envy indeed.
The music tracks are largely provided by the Lost Bayou Ramblers, giving another layer of vérité to the images and points of view. Jazz trumpeter and chef—a marvellous combination—Kermit Ruffin fills the ear with joy and some stomachs to the brim as he aptly demonstrates how to cook the pesky creatures: apparently closer to rabbit than chicken.
Ironically, a significant part of the overrun problem emanated from ‘80s social activists bemoaning the harvest of any animals to create fur no matter what their back-story was. In the good old days, Sophia Loren wasn’t shy about wearing the shimmering pelts; recently, with a company such as Righteous Fur paving the way, the notion of sporting sustainable fur to protect the vital wetland creates full-circle social and environmental sense.
Once again, there are two sides to every social activist story: a viewing of Rodents of Unusual Size might well cause some to question the agenda of other “rodents” amongst us. JWR