|What is a sloth?
Those familiar with sloths often associate the poor things with their namesake, the deadly sin. Sloths were described by the great French naturalist Georges Buffon in 1772 as "the lowest form of existence." He wrote, "One more defect would have made their existence impossible." Hence these placid and inoffensive creatures have acquired an entirely undeserved public relations problem that Ms. Ledbetter's delightful film completely dispels. It will make you fall in love with the sloth. And you will likely strive to be more sloth-like.
Ms. Ledbetter knows all about this. She fell in love with these animals years ago. "When I encountered a sloth for the first time, I was struck by its beauty and grace," she says. Traveling in Costa Rica in 1992 she stayed at a bed and breakfast called Aviarios del Caribe. There she met Buttercup, an orphaned three-toed sloth whose mother had been hit by a car. Judy Arroyo, the owner of Aviarios, had rescued and raised Buttercup, and said perhaps Jeri could hold her. But under no circumstances was she permitted to wake her.
Jeri recalls, "The first thing I had to learn in pursuit of sloths was patience.
Sloths sleep a lot--up to 18 hours a day. Buttercup was sleeping in her hanging wicker basket, and I waited for hours for her to wake up. Once she opened her eyes and blinked, I was permanently smitten. I haven't been quite the same."
Today Buttercup can still be seen at Aviarios, reclining in her basket and beaming regally at her caregivers and guests. She basks in the adoration of all--in between naps, that is. Her priorities remain unaffected by her fame.
Why a film about sloths? Jeri laughs. "A lot of people ask if I run the show in fast motion, assuming that terminal boredom would set in after about 15 seconds of watching a sloth creep around or merely sleep." Actually, sloths are quite engaging. "Each one’s facial markings is unique, and they have the sweetest perpetual smile."
Sloths are physically incapable of rapid movement; this allows them to escape the notice of predators. Jeri readily admits that this made them an attractive subject for a new filmmaker. "The sloths were endlessly patient while I was learning to film. They wouldn't run away, nor would they hurt me. It sure beat taking on jaguars for my first project."
In this film Jeri embraces the philosophy of sloth as well as the animal. In these days of high stress, fast food and cheap sound bites, there is much we can learn from the sloth. Jeri explains, "They aren’t lazy; they are calm and deliberate. They remain completely at peace, no matter what is going on around them." She is proud that her friends say she has become more sloth-like since she began working on this film. "I accept that as a huge compliment."