The stranger-than-fiction documentary ‘Chicken People’ focuses on three main characters over the course of a year - Brian Caraker, a musical theatre performer from Branson, Missouri; Brian Knox, an engineer of high performance race engines from New Hampshire; and Shari McCollough, a homemaker from Crawford County, Indiana, as they prepare for the Ohio National Poultry Show. Here our competitor’s chickens will battle thousands of other chickens (not in a cock-fighting, avian ‘Bloodsport’ kumite) to be named Super Grand Champion.
Between competitions, the subjects are shown in their home lives as they prepare for the next competition while dealing with what life has in store for them. We are also introduced to the various different types of chicken (yes, there’s more than one, apparently) and the pursuit of perfection based on a revered text over a century old, the American Standard of Perfection.
Nicole Lucas Haimes’ documentary could easily be compared to Christopher Guest’s classic mockumentary ‘Best in Show’ about strange and funny dog owners due to the warm way it profiles these three passionate oddballs. Shari McCollough may imitate a mating dance and discuss what she calls the “wham, bam, thank you, ma’am” nature of chicken sex but none of these people seems as obsessed with breeding the perfect poultry than Brian Knox, who calls his chickens by their genome number, and goes to great lengths to create genetic perfection in his fowl.
No one seems more obsessed with breeding the perfect poultry than Brian Knox, who calls his chickens by their genome number.
The documentary cuts back and forth between the three - rarely crossing paths - and presents interview footage from all of them, their loved ones, as well as other breeders. These people are so enthusiastic about their chickens that it will put a smile on your face, if not have you outright laughing. Ultimately, ‘Chicken People’ is interesting, insightful, and a touch heart-warming. Plus, maybe audiences will learn something new about something many of us have probably only seen on a plate.