Pecking Order documentary review: ruffled feathers and fowl play

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Pecking Order green light

MaryAnn’s quick take…

An absolutely hilarious and very pointed exploration of politics and culture on the smallest possible scale. And a lot of good-lookin’ chickens.tweet
I’m “biast” (pro): nothing
I’m “biast” (con): nothing
(what is this about? see my critic’s minifesto)

You’ve seen Christopher Guest’s mockumentary Best in Show, about geekily dedicated dog-show people. Now behold Pecking Order, the “flockumentary” from New Zealander filmmaker Slavko Martinov about competitive poultry pageantry and, more specifically, about the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club, and the greatest crisis to rock the organization in its 148-year history. There’s no “mock” in this: it’s all true, and while there is humor galore here, none of it is at the expense of its subjects. Instead, with, perhaps, the maxim that as soon as you get more than two people together, you get politics, Martinov crafts an absolutely hilarious and very pointed exploration of government and culture on the smallest possible scale. For, you see, in the run-up to the 2015 National Poultry Show, and amidst scandal, in-fighting, clashing personalities, and, ahem ruffled feathers, the club is forced to replace its president. No wonder tempers run high: there are a lot of big, fascinating personalities here, poultry fanciers of all ages — yes, there are teenage chicken nerds — and genders, and who run the gamut from charming to charmingly odd to downright weird. They’re all a delight to spend time with. And then there are the birds! One show judge informs us that “a bird knows when it’s a good-looking chicken,” and while I’m not sure that’s the case, there are certainly some good-looking chickens here. Warm and witty and generous and simply brilliant,tweet this is about as fun and as entertaining as documentaries get.tweet (PS: You will be happy to learn that the Christchurch Poultry, Bantam and Pigeon Club survived its crisis, and is celebrating its 150th anniversary this year.)

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