16 September 2010

The Puppet Film

In this documentary by American David Soll, we discover that, unlike many other countries, 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 featuring puppets. On Broadway, in the avant-garde, and even at the Metropolitan Opera, puppets are suddenly on the American mind. 

This ‘puppet renaissance’ suggests a key question for the film: Why was puppetry first marginalized in America, and what does it mean that we’ve returned to this ancient form? Some have argued that the explosion of puppetry is part of a larger reaction against technology and digitization. As puppeteer in the film puts it, “Can you take apart your iPod and fix it? Of course not. But you can fix your bicycle.” In other words, puppetry symbolizes a yearning for mechanical, analog, basic interactions with the world. Others have suggested the disappearance of puppetry in the West was in line with the ascendance of realism, and thus the reemergence of puppetry signals a decline in realism. Is it possible that puppetry is a symptom of a culture-wide backlash against these pillars of the modern era?
We now wait with baited breath for the release of another interesting puppetry doco!

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