The Federal Duck Stamp is many things: symbol of a successful wetland conservation program, 82-year-old tradition and requirement for fowl hunters. And for the artists who submit to the national competition each year, it’s the Superbowl of wildlife art, the Big Kahuna of prestige and the ticket to a successful career. (They don’t actually win $1 million, but the esteem catapults them to the upper echelon of their field).
The Million Dollar Duck, a feature documentary by Brian Golden Davis, offers a quirky portrait of the microcosm that surrounds the Duck Stamp, a world of fowl obsession, fierce competition, crushing heartbreak, family dynasty and colorful characters. It follows several artists — sequin-clad outcast, young super-talent and favored winner among them — as they vie for the 2014 prize. Along the way, it sketches the history of a program that’s preserved and acquired more than 6 million acres of wetlands, and tells a story of the indelible bond between art and conservation.