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‘Fraggle Rock’ creator finishing films to help Syria’s refugees

Bermudian puppeteers Michael Frith and wife Kathy Mullen are reaching out to some of the two million children displaced by the recent chemical weapon attack in Damascus, Syria.

The couple are in the process of finishing off two puppet films to help Syrian refugee children traumatised by what the United Nations is calling the worst refugee crisis since the 1994 genocide in Rwanda.

“We are building puppets as we speak,” said Kathy Mullen. “We are madly trying to finish our puppets.”

Mr Frith is well-known for his work with the Muppets television show and was creator of ‘Fraggle Rock', a television show in the 1980s that was inspired in part by Bermuda.

Ms Mullen, originally from Long Island, New York, is a one time principal performer with the ‘Muppet Show'.

Through their charity No Strings they have produced a number of films to help at-risk children around the world experiencing things like natural disasters, war or even health crises such as AIDS/HIV.

They are producing the Syrian films for a charity called Catholic Relief Services (CRS) based in Baltimore, Maryland.

One film will help the children deal with their trauma and the other looks more at conflict resolution.

“Our partners on the ground in the refugee camps along Syria's borders are pressing us: the need is desperate and time is of the essence,” said Ms Mullen. “We made one for CRS for the Haitian earthquake in 2010. It was very successful.”

Children who have experienced extreme childhood trauma often act out with anger by getting into fights or refusing to go to school, or they turn their pain inward and become depressed and sometimes even catatonic.

The storylines in the No Strings films speak directly to what the children are going through and give them a platform to talk about their experiences.

Two little girls who survived the Haitian earthquake talked for the first time in three years after seeing a No Strings puppet film.

“CRS was happy with our work so they asked us to make films for very traumatised kids in Syria,” said Ms Mullen. “The Syrian trauma film will be a fable, set in a fantasy town, long ago and far away.”

Ms Mullen said making a film for a different culture had its challenges.

There were some obvious difficult decisions to make such as whether the female puppets would wear head coverings, and some less obvious ones such as whether to include certain animals in the story.

“We had a dog in the original script,” said Ms Mullen. “Then one of our puppeteers said she had just been in Saudi Arabia and they considered dogs to be unclean.

“I wasn't sure if that was also true in Syria, but we ended up using a donkey.”

The music for the films is being done by Bermudian Felix Tod.

“He is a wonderful music producer and composer,” said Ms Mullen. “He has done at least 13 films with us.”

They hoped to have the films finished in mid October. Workshops for the films will be conducted in Turkey, and then workshop participants will take the films into refugee camps to work with the children there.”

Mr Frith and Ms Mullen are now trying to raise much needed funds for the project.

“Fortunately, these two films are largely funded,” Ms Mullen said. “But we must find an additional $50,000 in order to complete the post-production: editing, sound design, additional dialogue and looping, music composition and recording, visual effects, graphics, mastering, dubs, packaging and so forth.”

For more information or to make a donation see the website www.indiegogo.com/projects/no-strings-films-for-syria.

Puppets Adnan and Farouk who are thick headed and set in their ways in a film by y Kathy Mullen and Michael Frith designed to help traumatised Syrian children.

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Published September 04, 2013 at 9:00 am (Updated September 03, 2013 at 6:24 pm)

‘Fraggle Rock’ creator finishing films to help Syria’s refugees

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