By Romain Raynaldy (AFP) – Jan 28, 2010
PARK CITY, Utah — Toxic cane toads have taken the Sundance Film Festival by storm in an irreverent new 3D documentary exploring the warty amphibians' invasion of Australia.
Director Mark Lewis hopes his film -- "Cane Toads: The Conquest" -- will encourage the public to take a different view of the creatures, which are reviled as a pest and a threat to indigenous species in Australia.
It is the second time the Austalian film-maker has investigated the toads, which were introduced to the country in 1935 in a misguided attempt to control beetles ravaging sugar cane fields in the tropical northeast.
But unlike his first film -- 1988's cult classic "Cane Toads: An Unnatural History" -- Lewis's latest movie was shot in 3D, which the director says allowed him to "tell the story from the toads point of view."
"For me, the 3D allowed us to get a point of view closer to the toads and to give a real perspective to the conquest," Lewis told AFP.
"In a way, it's my 'Ava-toads,'" he joked, referring to James Cameron's record-breaking science-fiction film "Avatar."
Lewis uses humor to tell the story of the marauding toads, Bufo Marinus, which today number some 1.5 billion, descended from an initial import of 102 75 years ago. Unlike many of his countrymen, Lewis insists toads have a bad press.
"It's just an easy subject for the press. They love the words 'invasion' and 'war'. As an environmental issue, it's certainly not the biggest issue in Australia," Lewis said.
"You can find many others: the over-fishing, the Great Barrier Reef, camels, boars ... but you know, they are not sexy," added Lewis, who describes the physical appearance of toads as "a beautiful thing, like a jewel."
"And what's interesting about the toad is that everybody has his own unique attitude or perspective on it," Lewis said. "It brings bigotry, cruelty, racism, sympathy, love... a lot of things."
Lewis's film spotlights defenders and opponents of cane toads, including one woman who talks about sending toads on a "trip to Alaska" by killing them in a freezer -- said to be the only humane method of killing the animals.
Others include humans who hunt the toads in order to lick their skin for an LSD-style hallucinoginec trip.
"The toad is a good witness of human stupidity," says Lewis, firmly in the Bufo Marinus camp.
"We are to blame, not the toads. The toad is innocent, we are stupid. We shouldn't forget that of all the invasive species, man is the worst."
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