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Muskrat Lovely

Muskrat Lovely

Director:Amy Nicholson
Release Date:2006

At AFI Silver Theatre’s Silverdocs in Silver Spring June 14 at 8:30 p.m.

By Bret McCabe | Posted 6/14/2006

Since the 1930s, Dorchester County on the Eastern Shore has held its annual National Outdoors Show, where hopeful men and women square off in muskrat skinning. Women have to skin three muskrats, men five, and judges are on hand to make sure it’s done with skill as well as speed—you know, you want to make sure the eyes come off with the hide so you don’t lose any points. In the 1950s the annual event added a teen beauty pageant, Miss Outdoors. Baltimore native Amy Nicholson visited the run-up to the 2004 Miss Outdoors pageant, its 50th anniversary, and follows the contest organizers and the eight high-school hopefuls up to the crowning of new winner—intercut with anecdotal stories about muskrats and their skinning. Muskrat Lovely is an utterly entertaining look at a small Chesapeake Bay community, and Nicholson wonderfully never condescends to her subjects. She interviews each of the Cambridge South Dorchester High School students about not only why she would like to be Miss Outdoors but also just about who she is, and these young people are refreshingly sincere and snark-free. And mad love for the contestant who skinned a muskrat for the talent portion of the competition—let’s see Miss America try that.

E-mail Bret McCabe

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