Sunday, September 25, 2016

Chicken People is a pretty clucking wonderful documentary

OK, I'll freely admit it: When I first heard about Nicole Lucas Haimes Haimes' Chicken People -- the fascinating feel-good documentary I reviewed for Variety last spring at the Nashville Film Festival -- I expected something along the lines of a Christopher Guest mockumentary. With the emphasis on mock.

But no: As I wrote for Variety: Haimes "approaches her subjects — both human and otherwise — with equal measures of bemused curiosity and respectful empathy, with nary a trace of wink-wink condescension." Chicken People offers "an illuminating and amusingly entertaining look at the thriving subculture of competitive poultry breeders," and "as the film progresses, the sheer determination of the breeders who are Haimes’ primary focus commands respect, not derision."

After traversing the festival circuit, Chicken People opened Friday in limited theatrical release. And I'm happy to see I'm not the only critic who thinks it is something worth crowing about. Katie Walsh of the Los Angeles Times writes: "[T]he film proves to be more than just a glimpse into a world that’s easy to titter at. Haimes delves into the larger issues and psychological motivations that drive the kind of obsession that allows one to breed award-winning poultry." Helen T. Verongos of The New York Times adds: "Will fluffy, poodle-like chickens replace cats on the internet? Maybe not, but these chicken people, with deep connections to their birds, make for a fun and at times astonishing film."

Chicken People is well worth looking out for, even if you have to wait until it's available in digital and home-video platforms. As I noted months ago in an observation that didn't make the final cut of my Variety review, but did make the movie's trailer: Will you enjoy it? Well, you just have to ask yourself: Do you feel plucky?