Coming to VOD today, Tuesday, August 9: THE MILLION DOLLAR DUCK
Brian Golden Davis’ look at the annual Federal Duck Stamp Competition made its debut at Slamdance earlier this year, where it won both jury and audience awards. Further festival stops included Salem, Telluride Mountainfilm, San Francisco Doc, and Omaha, among other events.
Davis’ likeable film focuses on the unique contest, where artists vie for the chance for their work to be reproduced for the government’s wetland preservation program – the only juried arts competition run by the federal government. While there is no cash prize, past winners have scored lucrative licensing deals, lending the doc its take-notice title. After providing a brief history of the stamp, and how it developed into an art competition, Davis hews close to competition doc conventions, profiling several artists who are taking their shot, noting that in such a specialized contest with a relatively small pool of entrants, an individual’s chances of winning are more within reach. Subjects include newbies and past winners alike, including a former champion who represents one of three brothers who have dominated the competition in past years, a full-time artist hoping to provide for his young family, and even an outsider to the community who rankles its traditionalist members by using unconventional materials like sequins in his entries. Demonstrating their artistic process, Davis follows them from field research to execution, sometimes taking more than a year to fine tune there duck portraits, and onto the convivial two-day competition, as contenders react to their work being scored and sweat it out until the final results.