Cane Toads: An Unnatural History/Films by Jane Campion | Theater Critic's Choice | Chicago Reader

Cane Toads: An Unnatural History/Films by Jane Campion 

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One hundred and two cane toads were brought into Queensland, Australia, in 1935 with the hope that they would get rid of sugar-cane grubs. The toads quickly overran the countryside, eating everything except cane grubs. In this documentary featurette, filmmaker Mark Lewis extracts as much grim humor as possible from this problem--which persists--with all its grotesque ramifications. (The strange mating habits of cane toads are described in detail; their poison has not only caused ecological disaster in the area, but also has served as an illegal hallucinogenic drug; many children treat the toads as pets; and so on.) On the same program, and much more interesting as filmmaking, are three highly original independent shorts by New Zealand filmmaker Jane Campion, all of them made while she was attending the Australian Film and Television School: Peel (1981) and A Girl's Own Story (1984) are about family quarrels and transgressions; the remarkable Passionless Moments (1984), made with Gerard Lee, is a series of fictional miniessays that defy description. All three Campion films are strikingly photographed and edited, and comprise the most interesting Australian independent work that I've seen. (Film Center, Art Institute, Columbus Drive at Jackson, Saturday, August 20, 6:00 and 8:00, and Sunday, August 21, 4:00 and 6:00, 443-3737)

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