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Pulling the Strings:

A Puppet Intervention
Directed by: Mark Borroso
Friday, November 12th, 4:30 p.m.
Thalian Hall Black Box Theater

Filmmaker Mark Borroso was hesitant to send Cucalorus his film about a group of puppeteers from Chapel Hill. Knowing that the festival was known for being an international showcase, he was afraid that something so close to home might not be of exceptional interest. Yet, he quickly realized he was wrong.

“I think even an organization like Cucalorus that sees entries from all over the world can appreciate something this beautiful happening only a couple of hours away from Wilmington,” he says. “It unveils a really quirky part of North Carolina.”

Borroso calls the performers “radicals,” in that they continue to put on performances even through all of the chaos and turmoil that his camera caught on film. The group has been in Chapel Hill for 11 years, dedicated to the rich history of puppeteering despite the poverty and hard work that comes with the job. Borroso, who works as a sound man and producer at a national news network, has shown the film in several festivals, including the Atlanta International Puppet Conference, the Breckenridge Festival in Colorado, the Indie Gathering in Ohio and the Ybor City Festival of Moving Images in Tampa, Florida, where it garnered an Audience Award. Since this was his first film, he admits that the quality of the filming isn’t perfect, but so far that hasn’t stopped the film from gaining exposure.

“I’m not going to wow anyone with my technique, that’s for sure,” he says humbly. “The subjects of the film are going to do that for me.”

Borroso explains the film’s appeal can be found in the purpose of puppetry. “Even before ‘Sesame Street’ and ‘Captain Kangaroo,’ puppets existed as this way to make fun of authority,” he says. “They used puppet shows in ancient China, Indonesia, Africa and Europe. It’s a form of public expression that dates back thousands of years, and it still remains relevant to this day.”

As for the theater troupe that his film documents, Borroso says that their creative process is what keeps the art form fresh. “It has really become a community phenomenon in Chapel Hill,” he says. “When people watch the film, they are amazed that these actors can pull off their shows, given the drama they have to endure just to stay together and perform.”

He says he learned a lot in his first experience as a documentary filmmaker but one lesson stands out among them all: “Even through all of the difficulties, personal and financial, that can be found in a production this size, a thing of beauty can ultimately be found in the finished product.”

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Encore Magazine regularly covers topics pertaining to news, arts, entertainment, food, and city life in Wilmington. It also maintains schedules and listings of local events like concerts, festivals, live performance art and think-tank events. Encore Magazine is an entity of H&P Media, which also powers Wilmington’s local ticketing platform, Print and online editions are updated every Wednesday.

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