VARMINTS
91 minutes, 1998, Hi8

“Captivating.”  Indiewire

“Gripping, VARMINTS is the SCHINDLER’S LIST of wildlife documentaries…You simply cannot watch and remain unmoved. It demands intellectual attention.” The Coloradoan  (read full review)

“I hear the incredulous gasps of the politically correct, ‘Who in the hell would blow those little fellows up for fun?’ Doug Hawes-Davis has found those very people, and he let’s them take center stage in VARMINTS.”  Mountain Gazette   (read full review)

“VARMINTS juxtaposes two sides of humanity, one believing in the two-fisted Manifest Destiny obligation to dominate the earth and the other struggling to present a new, less destructive model that recognizes the right of other animals to occupy the planet.”  Sierra   (read full review)

“Forceful….With a title like VARMINTS, you might not expect this kind of movie: It’s graphic, it’s well-photographed and it’s even pretty well-balanced.” Bozeman Daily Chronicle   (read full review)

“Even folks who know all about the prairie dog controversy will be enlightened by VARMINTS. From all appearances, the issue is far more complex than environmentalists vs. property owners, preservationists vs. developers; or rednecks vs. vegetarians and animal-rights activists. There’s also that whole American romance with guns. Viewers everywhere will ponder who, in the grand scheme of things, who the true varmints are.” Westword   (read full review)

*** “VARMINTS is an engaging, thought-provoking 90 minutes. Wherever you come down on the prairie dog issue, you will find your ideas supported and challenged in this movie.”  Colorado Daily   (read full review)

“Provocative and disturbing…horrifying, fascinating and darkly hilarious.” The Tributary Magazine   (read full review)

“An often humorous and sobering view of the emerging controversy…. From the outset, I was just crying out for the cute critters to be saved. Varmints leads viewers to unavoidable conclusion: let the critters live.”  Missoula Independent   (read full review)

“The 91-minute work spans several western states and a range of opinions about the prairie dog. Intermixed are the jarring scenes of a band of exuberant shooters whose remarkable enthusiasm for prairie dog hunting is matched by their disdain for what Denver’s Mark Mason calls ‘animal cultists’.”  Boulder Daily Camera   (read full review)

“Enlightening…..Well worth seeing….it just might make you think. Surprisingly, it might even make you laugh.” Arizona Daily Sun   (read full review)

“A Classic.” High Country News

“VARMINTS will have you rooting for the underdog.” Matt Groening

“Opening with a scene that plays as if Walt Disney’s VANISHING WILDERNESS was remade by the Farrelly Brothers (THERE’S SOMETHING ABOUT MARY), in which yahoos wearing ‘Explode them Dogs’ buttons use high-powered rifles to play pop goes the prairie dog, Hawes-Davis’ VARMINTS explores the conflicting morass surrounding the endangered (or non-endangered), keystone species (or pest), better forage producing (or forage destroying) cuddly rodents known as prairie dogs. A thought provoking microcosmic look at a situation that will invite discussion on larger, more general, issues.” Video Librarian

“It’s hard to forget, or forgive, the prairie dog “recreational shooters” seen in VARMINTS, who sit at tables and take target practice on the rodents a quarter mile away. Doug Hawes-Davis, director of this informative and sometimes gory nature film, is ecumenical enough to include their commentary, along with that of ranchers and scientists, debating the role of the creatures, burrowing menaces to some and cuddly ecosystem cogs to others.” The Oregonian

“Doug Hawes-Davis’ intriguing documentary may have you grabbing for a hankie, as it chronicles the dangerous life of one of the cutest, but most hated, critters in the West.” Willamette Weekly

“Beautiful to look at…. An enormously engrossing film, VARMINTS tells a visual story with close-ups of plain-speaking folks paired with shots of strangely human-like prairie dogs, and sweeping pans that demonstrate the enormity and beauty of the landscape.” Portland.citysearch.com

“This powerful, thought-provoking documentary examines the fascinating, conflicted relationship between humans and animals in the West, where hunting and “progress” often lead to conflict—particularly when it comes to the surprisingly controversial prairie dog. Moving and often very funny, VARMINTS includes interviews with ranchers, biologists, hunters, and animal rights supporters, painting a nuanced portrait of a timely and interesting issue.” www.movieoutfitter.com

“VARMINTS unearths and explores the issue of prairie dog extermination at the hands of those convinced of the creature’s pestulence. Hawes-Davis uses educational films, produced around 1915 by the U.S. Biological Survey, which attempt to make a case for the government-sponsored poisoning of the Cynomys ludovicianus because of the widespread belief that it destroys crops and cattle grasses; the director then moves into the subtopic of hunters hired by landowners to blast the prairie dogs for sport. Hawes-Davis presents sufficient onscreen scientific evidence (including interviews with scientists) to unequivocally demonstrate the creature’s harmlessness, and alternates between this and extensive, disturbing, and blackly comic interviews with the buffoons who enjoy blowing the creatures to smithereens as a sport—one of whom even fantasizes about stuffing a prairie dog and using it as a fixture in his house. Beneath the ironic humor, Hawes-Davis uses the work to draw attention to a serious zoological issue oft-deprived of media coverage.” All Movie Guide

“Editor’s Choice.” Science Books & Film “Fascinating story-telling, scientifically and historically accurate…...Is this film a polemic? Well, it certainly has attitude, but all strongly held ideas have attitude.” Sam McNaughton, PhD, Biology Research lab, Syracuse University

“If enough people see VARMINTS, perhaps the prairie dog may escape the buffalo’s fate.” Beaversprite

“The prairie dog becomes both a humorous and sobering comment on the human condition.” True/False Film Festival

“Compelling, humorous and sad. Excellent for generating class discussion on hunting ethics, wildlife management issues, and endangered species issues. Everyone has their say, from shooters to ranchers to wildlife biologists to animal rights advocates.” International Society for Environmental Ethics

“I don’t know about you, but I’m always reckoned that the terrifying strain of ‘animals’ known as prairie dogs should be wiped out just as a matter of course, and the federal government seems to agree, since the state has been eradicating them with genocidal fervor for years now. But apparently, there are some science types who say the prairie dog is an important part of the ecosystem. Whatever dude. This documentary examines the conflict and allows a scaredy cat like me to discover that maybe, yeah, these cute, fuzzy little rodents shouldn’t be completely destroyed.” The Stranger

“Inspirational.” The Home Range

“It’s a balanced treatment, letting its interview subjects either elucidate or hang themselves.” E Magazine

“An engaging, though-provoking film of fascinating story-telling, VARMINTS will take you on a roller-coaster ride with environmentalists and sport-shooters alike. Can we control Nature? Should we control nature? Would you kill an animal if it threatened your way of life? Can any living thing really be seen as a Varmint? You be the judge.” Charleston Documentary Film Festival

“Hawes-Davis¹ intriguing technique of interviewing large numbers of people and letting the interviewees pigeonhole themselves is ingenious. By using this method, viewers may assume that the perspective we get on the conflict is determined solely by our impressions of the speakers and their views. In plain words, we can apply our biases to the interviewees who best fit our personal negative or positive position on the issue. Hawes-Davis has taken what is a very narrowly regional environmental debate into a new documentary realm by using this interesting interviewing technique.”  UNC Educational Reviews

“In VARMINTS, their first feature-length documentary, some of the trademark qualities of High Plains¹ films emerged. All their feature-length films are stylistically linked‹with few exceptions, characters aren¹t identified until the end credits roll, and no narration is used. This makes a film like VARMINTS - an alternately humorous and nauseating view of the controversy surrounding the impact of prairie dogs on the Western landscape - less a solution to a problem and more a Russian doll of questions.” Missoula Independent

“‘Explode them dogs!’ That’s a slogan of the Varmint Militia, a group of people who like to kill little animals, particularly prairie dogs, just to watch them die. These upleasant specimens of manhood are featured in Doug Hawes-Davis’ new documentary film about the ongoing extermination of prairie dogs from the Great Plains…. Dogs inhabit only 1-2 million acres currently and are losing 80,000 acres a year from their range. Yet prairie dog control is still publicly funded - by you, the taxpayer.”  Eugene Weekly   (read full review)

“A powerful, engaging, and surprisingly humorous expose of the strained relations between people and wildlife in the American West….Hawes-Davis artfully unravels the controversy surrounding this unassuming little rodent, leaving viewers to ponder questions about the ethics of hunting for sport and our relentless efforts to manipulate the natural world.” Camas Journal   (read full review)

“An incredibly disturbing film, but well worth watching….Highly recommended for all college and university library collections.”  MC Journal   (read full review)

“Effectively captures the anger, ignorance, and passion surrounding the debate.”  Montana Magazine  (read full review)

“A top-rate production…. Every bit of the 90 minute film is a relief from the pablum one sees on National Geographic programs and the Discovery Channel. Hawes-Davis has a unique ability to capture the ironies surrounding controversial issues - as well as the anger, the ignorance, the passion and the duplicity.”  High Country News   (read full review)

“VARMINTS is a wake-up call to environmentalists and sport shooters alike. Humorously told without losing sight of its ultimate goal, VARMINTS points out the folly of [the belief] that we can control nature without fully exploring the historical consequences of our behavior.” Ken Muir, PhD, Associate Professor of Sociology, Appalachian State University   (read full review)

“All sides of the prairie dog controversy are represented in this extremely thorough examination of the subject…. VARMINTS will make you think a little more deeply about prairie dogs, no matter which side of the controversy you think you’re on.”  Missoulian   (read full review)

“Powerful…a disturbing look at how an out of control myth can inspire such vitriol against America’s most misunderstood critter.” www.lucidscreening.com  (read full review)

“A disturbing look at people’s attitudes towards prairie dogs.”  Woodchuck Cafe  (read full review)

“Cute, disgusting, precious, expendable: All these words describe an animal that’s both the size of a squirrel and the new star on campus tonight. Prairie dogs will be the center of attention for the opening of UNC’s first Environmental Geography Film Festival.” The Daily Tar Heel   (read full review)

“Hawes-Davis is at the top of his craft in these independently produced documentaries dealing with…the prickliest animal rights issues in the West.” DePauw Magazine   (read full review)

“VARMINTS is a graphic film, with close-up footage of exploding prairie dogs set to a rocking score.”   E Magazine  (read full review)

“VARMINTS is a thought-inspiring ride through the world of the prairie dog. A finely polished testament to independent movie making. The documentary melds a seamless mix of nature footage, personal interviews, home video and even old black and white news reels into a cohesive history of prairie dogs in this country. It fairly documents both sides of a unique western argument that has been raging for the better part of a century.”  Montana Kaiman   (read full review)