Miami-Dade County

Python documentary to premiere at O Cinema Miami Beach

The new superintendent of Everglades National Park, Pedro Ramos, will be among the top scientists and policymakers participating Thursday in a panel discussion following the Miami premiere of the locally produced documentary Exotic Invaders: Pythons in the Everglades.

The film, which is at the center of a 12-week video collaboration with the Miami Herald that ran in 2014, focuses on the threat posed by invasive reptiles in the Everglades.

It premieres at 7 p.m. Thursday at O Cinema Miami Beach, 500 71st St. The event begins at 6 p.m. with the exhibit of a large, live Burmese python, and includes a panel discussion following the screening.

The film comes at a time when scientists are worried the python issue is getting worse.

“It’s getting more serious,” said Kristina Serbesoff-King, associate director of conservation at The Nature Conservancy in Florida. “Their numbers are expanding and their range is expanding.”

Ramos said he considers Burmese pythons a major threat to the park, and is addressing the issue aggressively. Less than a year into the job, he is taking steps to confront the challenge presented by the pythons, massive snakes eating their way across south Florida’s wild areas.

Among the initiatives: a new position for a python chief in the national park to oversee snake removal efforts, expanding access to the park for python hunters, and collaborating with the United States Geological Survey for an in-depth year-long study of the snakes.

“Here we are spending billions of dollars to restore the Everglades, and if we restore it for a whole bunch of invasive weeds and snakes, what good is that?” Ramos said.

Until now, scientists and policymakers have struggled to identify a framework of action to control the explosion of Burmese pythons in the Everglades. The film includes interviews with some of the top people in charge of the Everglades, and their frustration shows.

“We don’t have a solution set,” Shannon Estenoz, director of the U.S. Department of Interior Everglades Restoration Initiatives, says in the film.

Panelists on Thursday include Estenoz, Serbesoff-King, Ramos, Kristen Sommers, a top biologist with the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission and celebrity biologist Joe Wasilewski.

Exotic Invaders highlights the challenges of controlling an exploding population of Burmese pythons with few resources to go around, overlapping and conflicting jurisdictions, and an extremely elusive species.

After the film’s Miami premiere, it will air on WPBT2 on Aug. 26 in celebration of the 100th anniversary of the National Park System; and will air nationally on PBS later this year. Tickets to Thursday’s screening cost $10 and can be purchased at www.exoticinvaders.com

Oscar Corral is the founder and president of Explica Media, and the director and producer of Exotic Invaders. His other documentaries include Tom Wolfe Gets Back to Blood and The Crossfire Kids.

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