Discovery Channel's JumpCut Asia series focus on social and conversational stories

(From right) Ms Amrit Kaur Jastol, Ms Jessica Novia Sutrisno and Ms Nurul Amirah Haris conducting an interview in Kelantan.
(From right) Ms Amrit Kaur Jastol, Ms Jessica Novia Sutrisno and Ms Nurul Amirah Haris conducting an interview in Kelantan.PHOTO: DISCOVERY NETWORKS ASIA-PACIFIC
Film-maker Su-Mae Khoo has always wanted to find a story to tell about migrant workers in Singapore.
Film-maker Su-Mae Khoo has always wanted to find a story to tell about migrant workers in Singapore.PHOTO: BRIAN MCDAIRMANT

These beauty contestants have long legs and big chests, and strut about with confidence.

There is no question-and-answer segment for them though because, well, they are chickens.

Ms Amrit Kaur Jastol, Ms Jessica Novia Sutrisno, Ms Nurul Amirah Haris and Ms Eunice Tan Hui En - all 24 this year and graduates of Nanyang Technological University's Wee Kim Wee School of Communications in 2016 - stumbled on this intriguing subculture of chicken beauty contests in Malaysia and Indonesia via Google as they were casting about for a documentary subject. Ms Jastol, now a digital content producer, says they were fascinated and were bursting with questions.

"How do you judge a chicken? Do they eat the losers?"

They spoke to chicken owners, chicken beauticians who primp and prep the birds for the big day, and a musician who composes tunes for the pageants.

For the record, while a prized champion can fetch up to tens of thousands of dollars, no, the losers are not eaten.

Chicken Beauty Pageant is one of eight episodes on Discovery Channel's first digital short-form release, JumpCut Asia. It premieres tomorrow on www.facebook.com /DiscoverySEAsia, with a new episode released each Sunday at 10pm.

Mr Bryan Seah, head of original content, South-east Asia at Discovery Networks Asia-Pacific, says: "For JumpCut Asia, we were looking for stories that are social and conversational... and with larger-than-life personalities."

As for the focus on local content, he says: "Discovery is always looking to work with and mentor potential local production talent with a burning story to tell; stories that will engage and excite South-east Asian viewers with the outcome of driving conversations and to get audiences to reflect, engage and share."

Another idea which fits the bill is Cricket Masala by Su-Mae Khoo, 45, one half of local production company Two Chiefs.

She turns the spotlight on a small club called Thanjai which has risen up the ranks of Singapore cricket's Premier League.

Its members are mostly migrant workers from India's Tamil Nadu state. Khoo says that many of them are construction workers and they work long hours, often putting in overtime for extra pay.

"For them to take time off to play cricket goes to show how much they love the game and how dedicated they are to doing well in it."

The film-maker has always wanted to find a story to tell about migrant workers in Singapore.

She says: "Let's just not forget that they're people. These are guys who have travelled very far from home. They're alone and they're like you and me, they just want to do good for the family.

"The whole point of Cricket Masala is to approach the whole migrant worker story from a different angle."

• The eight-episode JumpCut Asia premieres tomorrow on www.facebook.com/DiscoverySEAsia at 10pm. A new episode is released every Sunday at 10pm.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on April 29, 2017, with the headline 'Shining the spotlight on chicken beauty pageants and other Asian stories'. Print Edition | Subscribe