Pecking Order




Competitiveness and obsession that we can recognise is seen here in an unexpected context.

Pecking Order


This is an agreeable little film that can claim the benefit of novelty twice over. First, it is set mainly in Christchurch and is one of the relatively few works, documentaries or otherwise, to reach us from New Zealand. Secondly its subject matter is of a kind not seen on our screens before. The central focus here is the Christchurch Poultry Bantam and Pigeon Club founded 148 years ago and in this film current officers and members of the club describe events leading up to their participation in New Zealand's 2015 National Poultry Show.


The filmmaker here is Slavko Martinov who has for the most part found the right approach. He is very much aware of the humorous side of the lives of these people obsessive in their interest and strongly competitive too. But the sense of comedy in the film, unusual in a documentary, never becomes cruel or forced even if one may question the inclusion of banal jokey captions at intervals ('Don't Count Your Chickens Before They're Hatched" etc.) and some of the music (in contrast to neat use made of Rossini's William Tell Overture) often suggests borrowings from a recording library.


However, those points become minor as we engage  with the personalities of the people on screen ranging from Ian Selby, a member who proudly wrote and published a book on 'Poultry Standards for New Zealand', to another member, Marina Steinke, who can never find a good word for the club's veteran president Doug Bain. Among others contributing there's the father Mark Lilley whose enthusiasm has been passed on to his young son Rhys and the loner Brian Glassey who emerges as quite a character. Like many a film building up to a major competitive event, Pecking Order finds structure in providing a countdown that starts off here with the written title '8 months to the National Show'. In the event, though, a second storyline develops when it becomes clear that some members would like to see Doug Bain ousted as president. Ultimately, this results in the film continuing after the National Show is over, a fact that contributes to the comparatively modest length of 88 minutes feeling a bit excessive for this material. On the other hand the tensions and disputes that occur in the running of the club will call forth delighted recognition from many a viewer whose knowledge of clubs is far removed from one concerned with poultry. So, despite a number of minor reservations, it can indeed be said that Pecking Order while modest offers much pleasure.




Featuring  Doug Bain, Mark Lilley, Rhys Lilley, Marina Steinke, Brian Glassey, Sarah Bunton, Bob Dawber, Brett Hawker.


Dir Slavko Martinov, Pro David Brechin-Smith, Mike Kelland and Slavko Martinov, Screenplay by Slavko Martinov, Ph Mike Kelland, Ed Mike Kelland, Music Tom McLeod.


New Zealand Film Commission/Sabineprogram-Tribe Releasing.
88 mins. New Zealand 2017. Rel: 29 September 2017. Cert. PG.