Reviewed by: Amber Wilkinson

Ever wondered how people pick a career in taxidermy? Well here's your chance to find out. Tally Abecassis is on the trail of the ancient art's practioners in this off-beat look at what many find a grisly pursuit.

For Dave Gibson it was a "spur of the moment" decision, while taxidermy champ Jeff Brain worked towards it all through High School, which is, frankly, a scary thought. Calvin King, meanwhile, ignored suggestions he go into politics in favour of mounting animals - onto wooden show plinths, of course.

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Despite their diverse backgrounds, all these Canadian men - clearly women have better things to do with their time - have one thing in common - they want to win the Taxidermy Championships. Abecassis' camera follows them, both novice and champ as they prepare their pieces for the big day. Intercut between this is the tale of Janie Rumm, a ditzy-but-endearing animal lover who is desperate to keep her dead terrier Wonder close... even if it means freeze-drying him, and big game hunter Benoit Brossard who has a frightening amount of stuffed animals - from cheetahs through to lions - locked in his basement.

This is a slight documentary - but it scores by never taking itself or its subjects too seriously. While holding back from mocking the participants, it gently exposes their over-seriousness. Brossard, for example, when asked about a stuffed giraffe says, without a trace of irony: "It didn't fit so I had to take a chainsaw to a ceiling." Meanwhile Dave enthuses: "I love working with wildlife."

There is a softer side to this, too. It's clear to see that Chris - who is working wonders on Wonder - cares about doing the best job he can for grieving owner Janie, while old-hand Ray Robinson is clearly an artisan of the highest order.

Abecassis has captured both the craft and the quirks of this off-beat profession in this lightweight but unexpectedly engaging film.

Reviewed on: 13 Sep 2006
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Lifting the lid - and the fur - on the taxidermist's art.

Director: Tally Abecassis

Starring: n/a

Year: 2005

Runtime: 52 minutes

Country: Canada


Birds 2006

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