VARMINTS (1998)

“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

“Captivating.”  Indiewire

“A Classic.” High Country News

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

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

“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 Magazine

“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

*** “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

“Provocative and disturbing…horrifying, fascinating and darkly hilarious.” The Tributary Magazine

“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

“VARMINTS 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

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

“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, 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

“An enormously engrossing film.” Portland.citysearch.com

“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

“Effectively captures the anger, ignorance, and passion surrounding the debate.”  Montana Magazine

“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

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