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Hot Docs 2017 ‘Pecking Order’ Review: 2017’s Best Chicken Pageant Documentary!

Pecking Order captures the poultry pageant’s competitors in all their comedic glory without making them the butt of a joke.

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Pecking Order is a poultry pageantry doc where the film’s subjects toss around terms like “loyalty,” “betrayal,” and “power vacuum” as though they’re in a Game of Thrones episode. While the poultry pageantry world’s stakes aren’t life or death, they may as well be for the participants. Director Slavko Martinov maintains a delicate balance between capturing the pageant’s fervent competitors in all their comedic glory without making them the butt of a joke. The result is without a doubt 2017’s greatest competitive poultry pageant movie.

‘Pecking Order’

Pecking Order captures the events leading up to the 2015 New Zealand National Poultry Show, and at the centre of the film is the Christchurch Poultry, Pigeon and Bantam Club. For the poultry pageant scene, the 148-year-old club is a cultural staple. Like many other 148-year-old institutions, Christchurch Poultry, Pigeon and Bantam Club’s traditional ways have opened the door for political infighting, and as bureaucratic pettiness threatens to tear the club apart, the film steps back and looks at the competitors who have made poultry pageants their personal obsessions.

While watching Pecking Order I couldn’t help but think about a couple of  Christopher Guest films: Best in Show (2000) and Mascots (2016). These two films examined a dog show and a mascot competition where each competitor’s ridiculous level of devotion to winning championships made for comedy gold. Much like Guest’s films, Pecking Order profiles likeable characters and mines comedy and drama from their “absurd” devotion to niche hobbies.

Conclusion:

Whether we’re talking about chicken pageants, mascot competitions, or stamp collecting, one thing holds true: all of our obsessions are ridiculous to somebody. We can point our fingers and laugh at the guy shampooing and blow-drying a chicken, or applaud him for finding an outlet to express his creativity and competitive spirit. If nothing else, Pecking Order expanded my pop culture knowledge..

Victor Stiff is a Toronto-based pop culture writer and film critic who enjoys covering the city's biggest (and nerdiest) events. Victor has covered TIFF, Hot Docs, Toronto After Dark, Toronto ComiCon, and Fan Expo Canada for publications all over the internet. You can find his latest posts on Twitter and Instagram.

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