FFF “Dumbstruck”


Firedog Speaks with Marlene and Gary

Two Final Films for Day 7
Number One Daughter and I close out our special evening with a short and a feature documentary. 

“The Poodle Trainer”–Reviewed by Number One Daughter. 

This is a short documentary about a woman and her poodles.  Working in the circus, she uses her highly trained poodles in her act.  Although it’s clear she cares greatly about her eight (or so) dogs, it’s hard to watch as she stuffs their heads in small lion masks and clip-on-tails.  Being a vegetarian, it seemed to hit a little harder.  Even so, this woman really loved her dogs and those poodles loved her back.  All in all, definitely an okay film. 

“Dumbstruck”–Reviewed by LanceAround

This feature documentary is an extraordinary film and a lot of fun.  It follows the exploits of five ventriloquists as they hone their craft between the annual Vent Haven Convention that takes place in July at a hotel in Fort Mitchell, KY. 

It gives a fascinating look at a very special group of people.  Ironically, many of these performers are very shy.  Their figure provides an alter ego that allows them to express things they might never dare to express in real life.  Like many artists, they have a passion for their craft and a determination to perform, no matter what. 

The group ranges from an awkward, tall woman who is being evicted from her home to a successful performer who has hit the mother lode with a 100 million dollar Las Vegas contract.  There are tales of family dysfunction, divorce and heartache mingled with moments of performance joy and success. 

The film was quite entertaining and held my attention, despite being our 10th film in a long night.  As much as I enjoyed it, I did think it could be made better with even tighter editing and some additional cuts.  The filmmakers shot over 300 hours, so it is clear they had already cut much out of this wonderful movie. 

Marlene, Gary and Sven

After the film, the two producers and the editor came onstage for some Q & A.  I ask Marlene, one of the producers and a ventriloquist herself,  if her “partner” was with her and could she give us a brief demo.  The audience applauds, encouraging her.  She brings out “Firedog” who tells the story of how shy Marlene is and that she is a schoolteacher.  It was fun to watch. 

Surprising Revelations After the Q & A
After the Q & A, I track down the three presenters and am regaled with an unexpected tale as entertaining as the movie. 

Marlene Cohen had been married to Gary Cohen for over twenty years.  One evening, at a dance, she begins to speak to him without moving her mouth.  He discovers that she is a closet ventriloquist.  “Doesn’t everyone do that?” she innocently asks her spouse.  “No, they don’t,” is Gary’s reply. 

When their daughter marries Mark Goffman, she does not have her figure [she had explained to me that the proper term for a ventriloquist’s “dummy” is “figure.”]  Using her gloves, she creates a mini ventriloquist act.  Turns out that her new son-in-law is a writer and filmmaker.  He has worked with Sven Pape, an editor, on James Cameron’s 2003 documentary “Ghosts of the Abyss.” 

Gary is fully supportive of his wife’s now un-hidden talent.  He buys her figures and goes with her to the annual ventriloquist convention.  It is decided that son-in-law Mark will do a documentary about this unique population–What a stroke of luck for the rest of us!

By now, Amber is clearly having a wonderful evening.  It is almost 1am and we still have the hour long drive home.  She will be tired in school tomorrow.  But maybe she’ll proudly show this post to all her friends!

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