In college, I chose to become a vegetarian. It’s been seven years, and I’m still happy with my decision. But there are times when I feel stupid for refusing the flesh—like when I am starving at 2 AM in New Orleans after a long night of boozing and the only edible stuff available is barbecued ribs and brisket. Situations like this remind me that even though you can chose how you want to live your life, you can't control the world around you. Sometimes, in spite of your choices, you have to go to bed on an empty stomach.
With Tastes Like Chicken, film director Quico Meirelles captures this sentiment. The short is told through the eyes of a chicken living in a factory farm who becomes self-aware. As the chicken achieves lucidity, she desperately searches for meaning. With no chance of meeting her father (due to artificial insemination) and a missed opportunity with her mother when she was rolled out onto a trundle with 23,000 other eggs, she longs for a normal life filled with afternoon strolls with her parents.
She grows ever more cognizant of the forces pressing down on her, such as the hormonal food being pumped into her body all day and the blaring factory lights that keep her from sleeping. She is forced to live like a slave and watch hundreds of her sisters die around her (there are some wicked chicken disemboweling scenes in here). How she wants to live and how she is forced to live are two drastically different things and raise ideas about free will within a system that everyone can relate to.
Tastes Like Chicken is beautiful, funny, and riveting. Also, in the time it takes you to watch it, 1,141,553 chickens will have been killed. Just a little food for thought. Enjoy!
Tastes Like Chicken's director, Quico, was born in 1988 and is the son of filmmaker Fernando Meirelles, who directed great movies like City of God and Constant Gardener. Quico worked as a assistant director on his father's film Blindness and made Tastes Like Chicken as his graduate film at the University of São Paulo. He is currently planning his debut feature-length movie. I loved Tastes Like Chicken so much that I hit Quico up for a chat.
VICE: Why did you want to make a movie about chickens? There are plenty of domesticated animals experiencing the pains of factory farming.
Quico Meirelles: I read the book Eating Animals by Jonathan Safran Foer the semester before I had to choose what my graduation project would be. The theme, the author's approach to it, and the intensity of what's told there were so big for me that I wanted to try and show it to a broader audience. What impressed me the most about the book was the chickens because of the numbers that surrounded their breeding. Everything is huge and is only getting bigger. But I also have to admit that I have a sort of fascination for these animals. Looking closely at them makes me feel like I'm staring at a dinosaur.
How did you develop the visual style for the film, which integrates animation, stock footage, and original content together?
Since the beginning of the project I had set the challenge for myself of creating a rich visual tale that had to be both great aesthetically and powerful narratively. I have no idea if I accomplished this task and I believe it's not my job to analyze it's merits or demerits, but in the end what matters most to me is that I was able to build a unique world inside of those 15 minutes. When I first wrote the script I was at the same time insecure and thrilled with the idea of developing a universe with such a variety of styles and looks. I wonder now if this insecurity/passion to try it wasn't actually what compelled me to work so hard on every part of the film.
Are you vegetarian?
Yes, I am vegetarian. I normally say I am a political vegetarian, but not because I preach about it all the time. I just find fundamentalists of to be very annoying and dangerous. I am a political vegetarian due to the fact that I don't eat meat because I am against the system within which animals are bred, not because I'm against eating meat as a concept.
What are you working on next?
I am starting to direct commercials, but at the same time I'm developing a TV program about elderly people and begging to work on a script for a possible feature film. Let's hope all of them work out.
Jeffrey Bowers is a tall mustached guy from Ohio who's seen too many weird movies. He currently lives in Brooklyn, working as an art and film curator. He is a programmer at the Hamptons International Film Festival and screens for the Tribeca Film Festival. He also self-publishes a super fancy mixed-media art serial called PRISM index.
Previously - I'm Short, Not Stupid Presents: 'Six Shooter'