Price: $310.00

    Code: 2397

    Directed by David Soll
    2010, 74 minutes
    Purchase: $310 | Classroom Rental: $125

    Unlike almost everywhere else in the world - where puppets are embedded in religion, folk crafts, and high art - America has long thought of puppetry only as a children's medium, relegated to sock puppet shows and kids television. Since the nineties, however, serious, adult puppetry has exploded in the United States. Although it still sits at the fringe, there has been a marked increase in press coverage of the puppet world and every year sees more high-profile productions. Puppets are suddenly on the American mind - on Broadway, in the avant-garde, and even at the Metropolitan Opera.

    Why was puppetry first marginalized in America, and what does it mean that we've returned to this ancient form? Interviews with practicing artists, historians, theorists, theater professionals, including Eileen Blumenthal, Stephen Kaplin, Frank Episale and Victoria Nelson cover a range of theoretical approaches to American puppetry. The film explores in some detail Blumenthal's supposition that the marginalization of American puppetry was due to the scientific, empirical, practical American mind, which expressed itself in theater as naturalism. Puppets, she points out, have very little place in a naturalist theater, so they were in fundamental conflict with the American ideology. Victoria Nelson sees a converse dynamic at work in the puppetry revival, charting a cultural trend away from naturalism and toward more abstract, fantastical modes of expression - modes in which puppets are right at home. Similarly, some argue that the explosion of puppetry is part of a larger reaction against technology and digitization.

    This new form of puppetry is distinctly American: it is a composite of disparate international forms, reinvented through the lens of self-education, irreverence and entrepreneurship. The styles of Indonesian shadow puppetry are paired gleefully in the same show with European marionette and Japanese bunraku, creating a dynamic community of diverse artists, sharing styles and techniques.

    At the center of the film is Dan Hurlin's "Disfarmer," a complex puppet work which premiered in 2009 at St. Ann's Warehouse in Brooklyn, NY, about a Depression-era portrait photographer named Mike Disfarmer who changed his name to Disfarmer to show his distaste for and shun the rural farming community in which he was raised. Beginning two years before the premiere, the documentary chronicles the entire development process: the early puppet construction, research, rehearsal residencies and finally, opening night.

    An illuminating documentary, Puppet is fascinating look at the history of American puppetry as well as its current renaissance.

    Subjects & Collections


    "A revelation! The more the process is revealed, the more miraculous it appears.” – Variety

    "We need films like Puppet and artists like Hurlin to remind us that puppeteering is a magical act that can reflect honestly upon the human condition.” – New York Press

    "If you are or have ever been a fan of Jim Henson, Being John Malkovich, the Coen brothers, Julie Taymor’s The Lion King, Paul Giamatti or really any kind of puppet made for children or adults, you must see this documentary.” – Cinematical

    "This film chronicles Hurlin’s research and includes comments from puppet experts, authors, performers, and show collaborators. Viewers observe the puppet-making process, rehearsals, and more before watching the short, amazing production of “Disfarmer,” which concludes this unique film." - Booklist

    "Puppet is a fascinating, thought provoking film, with top notch production values and a good balance between showcasing the art, and a discussion of the process and ideas around it. Highly recommended." - Educational Media Reviews Online

    "The film carries an appreciation for Hurlin's daring vision- and a glimpse of what equally imaginative artists could do with puppetry". - Video Librarian