Helping children cope with difficult situations rarely comes in the form of entertainment.
No Strings International is changing that, incorporating captivating storytelling into innovative workshops that help young people understand and process serious issues affecting their daily lives.
When the U.S. became involved in wars in Iraq and Afghanistan in 2001, Kathy Mullens and Michael Frith, the masterminds behind the Muppets and Fraggle Rock, were determined to help children in Afghanistan understand issues of war that had upturned the world around them.
“While we certainly didn’t change the course of history,” Frith said. “We, I think, did manage to change the course of some lives for some kids and that really was the impetus for No Strings and the work that it has been doing ever since.”
No Strings Attached: Puppets supporting children worldwidePuppets are helping children, around the world, cope with trauma.
Their organization, No Strings International, films puppets dealing with issues like HIV, poverty and war. The short films are presented to children in countries such as Madagascar, Sierra Leone, and Afghanistan in order to help them cope with the aftermath of natural disasters and other dangerous situations – in short, puppet films that dispense some very valuable “lessons for life.”
“Art is the manifestation of the feeling. Art can touch where other things can’t,” Mullens said. “Even though it’s a human form, it’s abstracted. It’s not a person, it’s these silly guys. But they’re talking about really real feelings.”
While No Strings International was created to help support children in these areas, Frith found that his films have had a much larger impact.
“In many cultures where these films have gone, there has been a wonderful and extensive history of puppetry going way back as a very important art form,” said Frith. “And what we have found in many cases is that there is a whole revival of interest in this as an art form.”
Join us for this week’s Full Frame Close Up, as we dive into this magical world of storytelling and see how some very loveable puppets are guiding children through traumatic events.
This Close Up was also recently honored with a Bronze medal in The Arts category for Television Documentary/Information Program at the 2016 New York Festivals International TV & Film Awards. The competition honors the world’s best in television and film from over 50 countries.