When intrepid Bay Area filmmakers Chris Metzler, Jeff Springer and Quinn Costello headed down N’awlins way some years ago to embark on a new documentary, nobody hereabouts had ever heard of an animal called the nutria. Heck, as recently as the beginning of their Rodents of Unusual Size festival tour 10 months ago, the destructive mammal was unknown to the average Californian.
Today, however, on the eve of its Bay Area theatrical premiere at the New Mission Alamo Drafthouse, the film has a ripped-from-the-headlines aspect. That’s good news for filmmakers opening a movie, but terrible news for the environment. Because the rapidly reproducing nutria, whose ravenous appetite for plants has accelerated the erosion of Louisiana’s wetlands, has migrated to our state.
You may recall Plagues & Pleasures on the Salton Sea—if you saw it, you remember it—the altogether wonderful 2004 documentary that related a saga of SoCal environmental devastation through a panoply of oddball residents. That was Springer and Metzler’s handiwork, and Rodents of Unusual Size provides more delicious evidence of their eye for the colorful character, and their ability to convey complex social, political, historical and ecological stories with humor and heart.
Did I say delicious? Rodents of Unusual Size introduces us to some Louisiana chefs who devised nutria dishes as part of a statewide campaign to conjure pleasure from a plague. Costello, Metzler and Springer just may bring some samples when they appear Friday night, Aug. 31, for the opening night of the Alamo Drafthouse run. But you needn't be a carnivore to enjoy their cinematic concoction.