“Chicken People” made its world debut at the South by Southwest Film Festival in Austin and it was great.
“Raising animals enrich people’s lives. Period.”
That’s what Brian Caraker says in the new, endearing documentary “Chicken People,” which follows three people as they prepare for the 2015 Ohio National Poultry Show. Brian Caraker, Brian Knox, and Shari McCollough are professional chicken people and the documentary films them throughout the year as they raise their show chickens for the Westminster of the chicken world.
The film is a lighthearted take on the serious world of poultry shows, where people come from all over the country to show their beloved chickens and hope for the title Best of Variety, Best of Breed, or the Super Grand Champion.
The movie begins with Brian Caraker singing Sinatra’s “The Way You Look Tonight” to his chickens as he explains that he thinks they like being primed and pampered. That human connection between handler and poultry is the general theme throughout the documentary, as chicken people are interviewed about how their chickens really are like family.
That is accompanied with scenes of chicken people strapping diapers on their chickens to let them in the house to people shampooing and blow drying their chickens before their big day.
The next star of “Chicken People” is Brian Knox who makes it his life’s work to engineer the perfect chicken according to the American Standard of Perfection, a book written at the turn of the century that describes all the requirements of a fowl breed.
The film is wonderfully edited with graphics from the American Standard of Perfection, which makes the film visually more artistic and portrays how difficult the competition really is. Each feather, comb, amount of fluff, is judged according to these antiquated descriptions.
The documentary exhibits each character and how dedicated they are to their chickens. The two-hour-long film delves deep into each character’s life and their personal trials and tribulations– ultimately, poultry shows have become their life passion.
The final character is Shari McCollough, who was at the premiere. I was able to speak with the film’s director, Nicole Lucas Haimes and Shari about their film.
It took two years of casting for Nicole to finally pick the three characters to follow. Shari is a mother of five whose full-time job is to take care of the home and all the animals that live there, including her llamas, bunnies, cats, and dogs.
Unfortunately, as the time came to go to the 2015 Ohio National Poultry show, there was an Avian Flu outbreak, the worst this country has ever seen. The Ohio show was canceled.
Without giving too much away, the movie goes deeper into how everyone moves forward and picks the Knoxville Poultry Show to exhibit at instead.
The film, as a whole, is an uplifting glimpse into a world that most people don’t even know exist. People who go to chicken shows are a tight-knit community that support one another through life’s hardships. They also truly love an animal that many only think of as food.
If you have a chance to see “Chicken People,” you should. You will laugh, cry, and clap as you root for each chicken to win the ultimate title of Super Grand Champion.
“Chicken People” will have two more showings at South by Southwest in Austin, Texas this week. It will then be shown at other film festivals before the premiere on CMT over Thanksgiving weekend.
As one movie-goer said to the crew and cast during the Q & A:
“Thank you for making this film. I also wash and blow-dry my Silkie chicken and everyone thinks I’m crazy. But this movie shows a more endearing view of people’s connections with chickens.”
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