“Rare Chicken Rescue” – 2009 Slamdance Film Festival Review

I walked into a Slamdance Film Festival screening of “Second Sight” expecting to pen my thoughts about the narrator, his lilting voiceover and his car travels through the Isle of Skye to locate Gaelic ghost storytellers.

Instead, the wearisome feature documentary was upstaged by its preceding short film, carried by the narrator, his lilting voiceover and his car travels through southern Australia to locate…poultry breeders.

“Rare Chicken Rescue” is a 26-minute documentary that takes a delightful look at one of those small slices of life that wouldn’t otherwise extend beyond its cocoon had it not been for the advances of film – in this case, the world of men and women like Mark Tully. Concerned that more than two-thirds of poultry breeds face extinction, Tully, a breeder himself, decides to go on a road trip to find and rescue rare birds that he has longed to see in person.

The multiple layers of the film reveal themselves as Tully packs his truck and embarks on his journey. He candidly explains how birds have saved his life when his depression could have taken over.  He meets fellow charmingly eccentric breeders in remote towns. He commiserates with one when tragedy strikes his barn. He even pays a visit to a poultry show not unlike a certain canine competition called the Westminster Dog Show. Despite Tully’s travails, the documentary maintains a lighthearted tone throughout, not just because the passion of the interview subjects towards their birds is so contagious, but because of Tully’s likeability and honest acceptance of what he can bring to the world.

“Rare Chicken Rescue” won the Grand Jury Award for Best Documentary Short at the 2009 Slamdance Film Festival. For more information about the film, go to the Film Australia Web site. To learn more about Mark’s rare poultry breeds, go to the Blue Hills Poultry Stud Web site.