You may be as surprised that I am recommending something called The Natural History of the Chicken this week as Jim was when I said I wanted to spend the evening watching it, but perhaps you won't be quite as surprised when you learn it was made by Mark Lewis, the same documentarian behind the cult hit Cane Toads. While the film was made in 2001, it feels older in a good way. Rather than adopting the inane tone of most “educational” shows about food (think Unwrapped and Diners, Drive Ins and Dives) it has the look and feel of an older Errol Morris film.
The story of chickens is not told through obnoxious narration but by real people that love the animals. One one lady gave her chicken mouth the beak resuscitation, another writes poetry to her pet chicken after taking a few laps with him in her pool. Lewis has the wisdom (the sadly so many current documentarians have lost) to just let these people talk while offering fun recreations and imagery to go with their stories.
It calls to mind the annual Thanksgiving Poultry Slam on This American Life, and unlike the age old question of what came first, the chicken or the egg, we know that it was Ira Glass and team that first appreciated the many stories to be told about our favorite white meat. PBS, whether inspired by the radio show or not, have made a surprisingly touching, hilarious and memorable program. Lucky us, it's available on Netflix on demand, so you can watch it tonight.