STOP10 Jul 2017: 'Chicken Beauty Pageant' by Amrit Kaur Jastol, Jessica Novia, Eunice Tan and Nurul Amirah Haris

While most people are crazy over the latest trend of deep-fried Korean chicken, there are others who are obsessed with how they look. And by this, I mean chicken beauty pageants. Yes, there are beauty contests for chickens.

In parts of Southeast Asia, namely Indonesia and Malaysia, there are communities made up of chicken owners who spend countless of hours grooming and training their chickens to compete in chicken beauty pageants. These chickens have the confidence, style and poise that might even put models to shame. 

In Chicken Beauty Pageant, a 14-minute short documentary film, we enter the world of chicken beauty pageants in Indonesia and Malaysia, where champion Serama chickens are worth up to tens of thousands of dollars.

Champion Serama chickens can be worth up to tens of thousands of dollars

Chicken Beauty Pageant brings an interesting community in the spotlight. Hooking me instantly with its eye-catching opening graphics and its quirky soundtracks, the film does a great introduction of its subject. It dives into a world filled with overly enthusiastic chicken owners, who are fired up in ensuring that their chickens perform their best on that day. 

One example of such a chicken beauty pageant is ASEAN Serama Cup held in Kediri, Indonesia. The chickens are judged based on their liveliness, their anatomy, their body parts and even their style. A lot of emphasis is placed on the chicken’s comb. If the comb is crooked, masking tapes are pasted on the chicken’s comb to ensure its straightness. Some even go as far as to allow chicken beauticians to operate on the chicken’s comb, cutting it piece by piece, into their ideal shape.

Masking tapes are pasted on the chicken’s comb to ensure its straightness

Providing different insights on the makings of a crowned pageant winner, Chicken Beauty Pageant keeps you glued to the screen with its unconventional editing. The film follows King Dien, the first Serama chicken in Indonesia to have five consecutive wins. King Dien was bought at a prize of $2000 (USD), but after it was crowned champion, its value has doubled.

There is pressure placed on pageant winners and hence pageant preparations are not taken lightly. Owners feed their Serama chickens various foods, different from what normal chickens have, including expensive vitamins. From dieting to its walk and appearance, owners feel a sense of duty to groom their poultry into champions. Hoping to gain as many points as possible in the pageant, this becomes a quest for perfection.

With chicken beauticians emphasizing the importance of the chicken’s appearance, the film also reveals the close relationship and mutual understanding that is essential between the chicken and its owner.

On the day of the pageant, owners can be seen screaming and dancing wildly, in hopes to get their chickens to respond and follow their actions. They do all kinds of silly things, despite not knowing if their chickens can understand them.

A chicken owner dancing wildly in hopes to get his chicken to follow him

What further surprises me is their constant thirst for wanting more, the chicken enthusiasts are never satisfied with what they have, and are always eager to have something better. In search of potential pageant winners, chicken owners hope that the offspring of their ex-champion chickens will be able to live up to their bloodline. An informative yet interesting story, this documentary certainly engages its audience visually, leaving us wanting for more.

Premiering as part of the Discovery Channel Jumpcut short film series featuring untold stories of Southeast Asia, you can now catch a slightly different version of Chicken Beauty Pageant here

Chicken Beauty Pageant is a short documentary film by filmmakers Amrit Kaur Jastol, Jessica Novia, Eunice Tan and Nur Amirah Haris. The film won Best Editing in Documentary Film Award at the National Youth Film Awards 2016. 

The film will be screened as part of the screenings of last year’s winners. You can watch it on 1 July 2017 from 7 – 9pm at *SCAPE Gallery Level 5. 

Find out more about the screenings and other talks and workshops which form part of the coming NYFA weekend here.

Written by Christine Seow

For the full list of July 2017's 10 films under STOP10, click here.
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