Kangaroo culling documentary leaves America hopping mad

A documentary about the culling and commercial exploitation of kangaroos has opened with solid reviews and sold-out premieres in New York and Los Angeles.

"The response has been incredible," Bondi filmmaker Michael McIntyre told Fairfax via phone from LA, where he and co-director Kate McIntyre Clere had attended a premiere screening of Kangaroo: A Love Hate Story. "People here are really keen to know about kangaroos - and the issues regarding kangaroos."

The documentary Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story has opened to strong reviews in the US. Photo: Supplied

The documentary Kangaroo: A Love-Hate Story has opened to strong reviews in the US. Photo: Supplied

Their film, four years in the making, features interviews with the likes of environmental historian Tim Flannery, ethicist Peter Singer and naturalist Terri Irwin, as well as a host of politicians, activists and farmers. But it is the footage of kangaroos being shot en mass, and of joeys being beaten to death (in order to save bullets), that has most captured the attention of American audiences and reviewers.

The Los Angeles Times has called it an "eye-opening investigative documentary" that "suggests the extent of an alarming animal-welfare crisis".

Variety has labelled it a "provocative" documentary destined to sit alongside The Cove and Blackfish in the annals of "eco-activist filmmaking".

The New York Times says the filmmakers have sounded a wake-up siren "with extra strength".

And the Hollywood Reporter says it is an "eye-opening" and "heartfelt defence of a ??? creature outsiders might assume needs no defence", even if it is also "frustratingly one-sided" in its argument.

Americans generally seem stunned to see the way we treat one of our national symbols.

Filmmakers Michael McIntyre and Kate McIntyre Clere with Chris 'Kangaroo Dundee' Barns. Photo: Supplied

Filmmakers Michael McIntyre and Kate McIntyre Clere with Chris 'Kangaroo Dundee' Barns. Photo: Supplied

"There's certainly an element of 'oh my goodness we had no idea this was going one'," says McIntyre. "There is this expose effect."

Though he's happy for Kangaroo to be labelled an activist film, McIntyre insists that's not how it started out.

"We'd seen research that said the kangaroo was the third-most recognised icon in the world, behind the Eiffel Tower and the Statue of Liberty. We wanted to celebrate that," he says.

Terri Irwin also features in the film. Photo: Supplied

Terri Irwin also features in the film. Photo: Supplied

"Of course we knew a bit about the culling and some of the other issues, but we had no idea about the scale of it. But the more we researched the more it became clear that's what our film was about."

The movie opened in the US ahead of Australia because a festival run last year suggested there was an appetite for it.

But McIntyre says he is braced for a very different response when it makes its home debut on March 15.

"We've learned how polarising the subject is in Australia," he says. "A good way to destroy any dinner party is to bring it up."

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This story Kangaroo culling documentary leaves America hopping mad first appeared on The Sydney Morning Herald.