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#Sundance: Mark Lewis Gets Down with 3-D Cane Toads

Photo of Anne Thompson By Anne Thompson | Thompson on Hollywood January 30, 2010 at 8:05AM

With 1988's Cane Toads: An Unnatural History, Australian documentary filmmaker Mark Lewis (The Natural History of the Chicken) introduced Sundance audiences to the cane toad--an amphibian imported Down Under in 1935 to control sugar cane larvae. Of course, the cane toad did nothing of the kind, and turned out to be a remarkably adaptable--and toxic-- creature, capable of killing dogs and pets with its poison glands. This time with Cane Toads: The Conquest, Lewis celebrates the toad as he tries to restore the balance by suggesting it's not all the toad's fault. He takes us from the toad 16 million years ago, through Puerto Rico and Hawaii to Australia and the evolution of the new and improved 3- D "Ava-Toad."
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Thompson on Hollywood

With 1988's Cane Toads: An Unnatural History, Australian documentary filmmaker Mark Lewis (The Natural History of the Chicken) introduced Sundance audiences to the cane toad--an amphibian imported Down Under in 1935 to control sugar cane larvae. Of course, the cane toad did nothing of the kind, and turned out to be a remarkably adaptable--and toxic-- creature, capable of killing dogs and pets with its poison glands. This time with Cane Toads: The Conquest, Lewis celebrates the toad as he tries to restore the balance by suggesting it's not all the toad's fault. He takes us from the toad 16 million years ago, through Puerto Rico and Hawaii to Australia and the evolution of the new and improved 3- D "Ava-Toad."

The movie is hilarious. Folks try to destroy the rapidly expanding toad population, hitting them with cricket bats, golf clubs and spearing them for sport. Think absurdist Peter Greenaway's The Falls meets Errol Morris's Fast, Cheap & Out of Control. My four-part flip-cam interview with the genial Lewis follows:

Part One: Why Return to the Cane Toad, and why use 3-D?


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Part Two: Dramatic Vignettes, Wallace the Wonder Dog (Rescue 911)


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Part Three: Scientists Defend Cane Toad, Mating, Romance, Monica's Pet, Dairy Queen


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Part Four: The Ava-Toad, 3-D as Future-Proofing


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This article is related to: Genres, Video, Festivals, Independents, Documentaries, Interviews


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Thompson on Hollywood

Born and raised in Manhattan, Anne Thompson grew up going to the Thalia and The New Yorker and wound up at grad Cinema Studies at NYU. She worked at United Artists and Film Comment before heading west as that magazine's west coast editor. She wrote for the LA Weekly, Sight and Sound, Empire, The New York Times and Entertainment Weekly before serving as West Coast Editor of Premiere. She wrote for The Washington Post, The London Observer, Wired, More, and Vanity Fair, and did staff stints at The Hollywood Reporter and Variety. She eventually took her blog Thompson on Hollywood to Indiewire. She taught film criticism at USC Critical Studies, and continues to host the fall semester of “Sneak Previews” for UCLA Extension.