PBS // 2011 // 52 Minutes // Not Rated
Reviewed by Appellate Judge Tom Becker (Retired) // December 10th, 2011
In 1991, wildlife artist and naturalist Joe Hutto discovered a bowl of wild turkey eggs on his doorstep. For more than a year, Joe became a full-time parent to 16 turkey chicks.
The experience changed his life.
Originally broadcast as an episode of Nature, My Life as a Turkey is a thoroughly charming little documentary about a man who -- as explained above -- raises some turkey chicks from hatchlings until they're ready strike out on their own.
The film is actually a re-creation of Joe Hutto's story; Jeff Palmer, an actor who looks something like Hutto, plays the naturalist, and Hutto narrates the story. Apparently, the filmmakers replicated the experiment, as there are many shots of Hutto's doppelganger interacting with the turkeys.
Hutto had always been interested in imprinting, and when a neighbor showed up with a bowl of turkey eggs, he had the opportunity to explore it in a way that few people have.
While the story is interesting and the film is beautifully shot, what makes My Life as a Turkey so compelling is how emotionally involving it is. Hutto really does assume the mother role -- making sounds while the chicks are still in their eggs so they can identify him when they hatch, feeding them, roosting with them, nurturing and loving them. His excitement is evident, as the young poults make discoveries about the world, and Hutto discovers how innately sophisticated and individualistic these animals are. When tragedy strikes -- and invariably, it does -- it's deeply affecting.
While it easily fits into the (sometimes dreaded) category of "edutainment," My Life as a Turkey is anything but a dry nature lesson. The story is fascinating, the birds are personable, and Hutto is a great narrator, never "speaking down" to the audience or dazzling us with jargon. This is a moving, personal story that makes for terrific family viewing. I haven't read Hutto's book on his experience, Illumination in the Flatwoods, but I plan on seeking it out.
The disc is a pretty simple affair: clean 1.78:1 anamorphic widescreen presentation, and solid Dolby Digital 5.1 audio track. There are no supplements.
A lovely and wise nature doc, My Life as a Turkey is well worth checking out.
Highly recommended; not guilty.
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Scales of Justice
* 1.78:1 Anamorphic
* Dolby Digital 5.1 Surround (English)
Running Time: 52 Minutes
Release Year: 2011
MPAA Rating: Not Rated