PECKING ORDER gets 7/10 Best in show

Directed by Slavko Martinov
Starring Doug Bain, Sarah Bunton

7/10

It seems the point of any documentary is to make the audience interested in its subject matter, no matter how obscure or peculiar – even if it’s about competitive poultry showing in New Zealand. And if you happen to already be a fan of competitive poultry showing in New Zealand, then you’ll become even more of one after seeing Pecking Order.

We are introduced to the motley crew of characters that make up the chicken breeding members of the Christchurch Poultry Club, as they gear up for the poultry competition at New Zealand’s National Show for 2015. These lovers of chickens seem to be either seasoned veterans at a senior citizen’s age or teenagers who are continuing their life-long interest in these creatures – there’s not too many folks aged right in the middle, and most that are tend to be supportive parents. It’s great to see the number of rather young folks getting involved with this sort of hobby, especially as one of the key concerns of the poultry club is the recruitment of a new generation of poultry enthusiasts.

Through this documentary, we get a good look at the chickens (the primary poultry focus) and what exactly it is that can make a chicken a prize winner. We also get a bit of a look at the behind-doors activities and hearings of the poultry community and their woes and back-stabbings. Despite the doom-laden opening message, the conflict it claims could threaten this particular year’s poultry competition is rather drummed up controversy that isn’t as threatening as it turns out.

Pecking Order has a keen interest in the chickens, but it’s interest in the wider community occasionally falls into red herrings such as these – this time could’ve been better spent on getting an even closer look at the chickens and what makes them stars of their show, especially as they’re hardly ever even seen outside of their cages.

What’s important to know about Pecking Order is that the competitors in this documentary know more about competitive chicken breeding than you do (most likely), so there’s a wealth of knowledge about the techniques to chicken preparation to be learned here. Perhaps there could’ve been even more chicken-beauty knowledge to have been divulged in this one-of-a-kind documentary, but this little delight is likely to be regarded as one of the most singular and amusing (and surprisingly interesting) documentaries of the year.

Pecking Order plays at UWA Somerville from Tues 26-Sun 31 Dec, 8pm, and at ECU Joondalup Pines from Tues 2-Sun 7 Jan, 8pm. For more info head to perthfestival.com.au.

DAVID MORGAN-BROWN

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