Review / ‘Chicken People’ (PG) *** and a half

The gentle hands of musical theatre performer Brian Caraker, one of “Chicken People’s” three principals.

MOST people who keep chooks do so for the eggs. For their capacity to scratch a living from kitchen scraps. And when their ability to produce eggs is over, for the pot.

Go to any agricultural show and you can see chooks competing for their owners’ fame and glory. Watch American TV journalist Nicole Lucas Haimes’ delightful documentary and you’ll discover how showing chooks is a competitive sport run on a national basis in the US (similar shenanigans go on in Oz). The cinema experience is agreeable. Its feathered lead actors are beautiful. Its human characters are what you’d expect of a bunch of folk whose lives rotate around not their professions but around their chook-showing hobby and its competitive compulsions.

Haimes’ treatment of those behaviours concentrates on Brian Caraker, a musical theatre performer from Branson, Missouri; Brian Knox, an engineer of high-performance race engines from New Hampshire and Shari McCollough, a recovered alcoholic, mother-of-five from Crawford County, Indiana, whose menagerie includes rabbits and a llama.

The film shows them preparing for the 2015 National Poultry Show. In its own focused way, it’s a blast. The sex lives of chooks are on display and you might be forgiven for wondering how the heck some of those heavily feathered boys and girls manage to connect.

The film’s people are generally likeable. The show judges quietly go about evaluating compliance with published breed standards for 154 known varieties of chook, as well as turkeys and ducks. For the film, which exhibitor was left standing at the end of the judging and went home with the trophy is less important than the camaraderie that marks the event.

The film doesn’t show to what end those pampered chooks come. After bathing, blow-drying, clipping and manicuring your best chums, the thought of eating them can be off-putting.

At Dendy

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