27 March 2009

The Natural History of Chicken

I don't really remember how this movie made it onto my Netflix queue, other than hey, I generally like documentaries and try to be conscientious about things I like to eat, so why not. Except that it turned out that this movie wasn't really about chicken at all. It was about people who raise chickens. Holy crap. I mean, I wanna be culturally sensitive and open and tolerant and all that, but wow, wtf is up with these people. I mean, what has happened in these peoples' lives such that they've ended up investing so much of their emotional and intellectual capital into chickens? There's something endearing about it, sure, but it's also kind of disturbing and surreal. You've got a woman who describes her pet rooster as her soul mate for goddsakes. HOW DOES THAT HAPPEN? I mean, nothing against chickens, but you kind of have to wonder when someone really sees them as deep founts of wisdom and a source of inspiration. And these people are so defensive, so wounded that this mystic genius of chickens is generally derided. It's absolutely mesmerizing.

Other than a few minutes telling you about the experiences of industry chicken (which is awful,and reenforces my vow to only eat free range happy chickens, yeah, except for the fact that baby chicks being stacked and then transported on conveyer belts is super adorable), the movie is actually a series of vignettes with weird chicken-related tales. There's the people who took a guy to court because his rooster farm was too noisy (which is really fascinating in terms of the glimpse of rural life it offers - you got a dude reading up on Sun Tzu while constructing the case, and the defendant himself makes the great point that, after all, isn't that what the country is for? who are these yuppy whiners?), there's the woman who gave her pet chicken CPR, and then there's the ace in the hole - the headless rooster.

In the tradition of the best documentaries out there, this movie gives you a glimpse of a specific part of the world that seems totally alien, and in the process, makes you reflect on a whole host of broader issues. Bizarrely fascinating, and at only 55 minutes, definitely worth watching.

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