USA, 2017 DIR/PROD Quinn Costello, Chris Metzler & Jeff Springer CAM Springer ED Costello NARR Wendell Pierce
Louisiana’s coastal wetlands are one of the largest disappearing landmasses in the world and the voracious appetite of hordes of monstrous 20 pound rodents known as “nutria”, a curious and unexpected invasive species from South America, is greatly accelerating coastal erosion, which in turn makes the area even more vulnerable to hurricanes. As the coastline disappears, the hunters and trappers, fishermen and shrimpers, storytellers and musicians are leaving en masse. Nonetheless, a stalwart few remain and are fighting back, such as hard headed Louisiana fisherman Thomas Gonzales. He and his fellow hunters fight a never-ending battle with the orange toothed varmints and their voracious appetites. They are hellbent on saving Louisiana before it dissolves beneath their feet. It is man vs. rodent. May the best mammal win.
After graduating from USC with a degree in business and cinema, Chris Metzler eventually joined the independent documentary film scene to start work on his feature length directorial debut with Jeff Springer - the offbeat environmental documentary Plagues and Pleasures of the Salton Sea. Jeff Springer was born in an abandoned town in the California desert, raised in Hawaii, and educated at USC Film School. Craving the unexpected, he directed his first feature documentary Plagues and Pleasures of the Salton Sea with Metzler. After relocating to the Bay Area, Quinn Costello began editing documentaries on subjects ranging from environmental justice, sacred islands and dancing spiders. His portfolio of work has been seen on PBS, The Learning Channel, Sundance Channel and innumerable film festivals including Tribeca and Mountainfilm in Telluride.
"We filmmakers grew up all around the United States, Quinn being from the Northwest (Idaho), Chris from the Midwest (Missouri) and Jeff from the Pacific (Hawaii). We were drawn to Louisiana because it has a mythic reputation as a place that is exploding with joy, music and personality. The ecstatic chaos that others described was set against a backdrop that was quite dark and fatalistic. Part of it came from the environmental devastation that had been visited on Louisiana and the promise of much more to come. The fact that coastal Louisiana, as we know it now, may well disappear in our lifetime looms over everything and yet the joy perseveres. The more time we spent the more we realized that the story of the nutria is also the story of resilience."
Festivals (partial list): DOC NYC, Full Frame Documentary Film Festival, Melbourne Documentary Film Festival, Sarasota Film Festival, Oxford (Mississippi) Film Festival, numerous others.
Awards (partial list): Best Documentary Award) - Tallgrass (Witchita, Kanasas) Film Festival, Best Environmental/Outdoor Adventure Feature - Bend (Oregon) Film Festival, Best Documentary Award and Audience Award - Fairhope (Alabama) Film Festival, Best Editing Award - Matasalu (Estonia) Nature Film Festival.
Location: The areas we were in outside of New Orleans tended to be pretty conservative. However, we never experienced a sense of political animosity against us for being from a city - nevermind that the “city” is considered to be such a bastion of liberalism. The people we met tended not to harbor a particular animus against so-called ‘liberals’. There is a tendency in our more urban communities to demonize those with conservative political beliefs. We didn’t see that kind of demonization flowing the other way. At least not to our face. Louisiana is more politically eclectic than one might think and people are pretty comfortable with the fact that the folks surrounding them may have wildly divergent political opinions.
If You Find Yourself There: Well, it’s never hard to get a Cajun to tell you the best places to eat, though the answer is almost always their own kitchen. Some of the best meals we had were bags of boiled shrimp purchased at a gas station and eaten on the side of the road. Casanova’s Seafood in St. Bernard is a family run roadside to-go seafood place and their food is mind exploding. We had a tradition of stopping there on our way to visit our main subject, Thomas Gonzales, in Delacroix Island and eating crawfish by the side of our car while filming time-lapses at sunset. If the timing doesn’t work out there just throw out your guidebook and ask a local where to go to dance. Then, prepare to get schooled as Zydeco dance steps can get quite complicated.
Become Further Involved: Go to btnep.org to learn more about wetlands preservation.