In the 1950s a program called Dolls for Democracy was started. Women known as "doll ladies" would travel to local schools and teach children, through the use of hand carved wooden character dolls, about why racism and intolerance are wrong. Selma Bukstein was one of the original doll ladies. 60 years later and at the age of 91, she is the last doll lady. The Last Doll Lady follows Selma's efforts to revitalize the program and pass on its legacy to a new generation.
Interview with Writer/Director/Producer Taryn Hough
Congratulations! Why did you make your film?
I met Selma about a year before I started making the documentary about her life with the Dolls for Democracy program. As soon as I met her and heard her story, I knew that her 60-plus year journey would make a great documentary. Selma's efforts to end racism and educate kids about why discrimination is wrong, is an amazing testament to the human spirit. Selma herself is one of the most charismatic people I have ever met, and I knew people would find her story inspiring.
Imagine I’m a member of the audience. Why should I watch this film?
Selma is in her 90s and started off as one of the first "Doll ladies", and after 60 years, she is now The Last Doll Lady. She has overcome so much to have her voice heard and to get the message of the program out to the masses. After every screening of the film at a festival, I am approached by people afterwards who tell me what an inspiration Selma is. In her efforts to see the program succeed, her unwavering determination for over 60 years, it makes people really feel that anything is possible.
How do personal and universal themes work in your film?
I think everyone can relate to the feeling of having to overcome obstacles. Selma is a testament to never give up on your dreams and to continue to fight for what you believe in. Racism is a disease that we can overcome through education, and broadening of one's horizons. Selma is trying to educate children on why racism is wrong and stop the hatred before it grows out of control. Getting children to understand that we are equal and should all be treated with respect is a great message.
How have the script and film evolved over the course of their development?
Well, The Last Doll Lady is a documentary. I have made several narrative shorts in the past, but this was my first documentary. I had a very rough outline of things I hoped to capture, but I really just let the story unfold and tell itself. I did NOT manipulate any of the footage, what you see in the film is what happened in real life, in real time.
What type of feedback have you received so far?
All of the feedback I have received for The Last Doll Lady has been very positive. After every screening of the film at a festival (that I was able to attend), I had numerous people come up to me and tell me how inspiring Selma and her story was. It made people feel like they could accomplish anything
Has the feedback surprised or challenged your point of view?
I have made several short narrative films, but this was my first documentary. I have been thrilled with the films reception and the audiences take away of Selma story.
What are you looking to achieve by having your film more visible on www.wearemovingstories.com?
I'm hoping to just spread awareness of Selma's story and the Dolls of Democracy program. The program is an important part of our history, and knowing that people like Selma are still out there, is a nice reminder of the good people are trying to accomplish in the world.
Who do you need to come on board (producers, sales agents, buyers, distributors, film festival directors, journalists) to amplify this film’s message?
I'm trying to get the film in front of as many people as possible, so I'm always on the lookout for Film Festival Directors and Journalists.
What type of impact and/or reception would you like this film to have?
The film has screened at 26 festivals and won over a dozen awards. The Last Doll Lady is nearing the end of its festival run, but the impact it has made is amazing. The film has been embraced with open arms and has educated thousands of people about the Dolls program and Selma's efforts to keep it going.
What’s a key question that will help spark a debate or begin a conversation about this film?
Should you ever give up on a dream? That is a theme throughout the film. Selma is met with a lot of resistance, and has for the past several years, but she will not give up. She feels strongly about the program and will fight for what she believes in until the day she dies.
Would you like to add anything else?
If you would like to learn more about the program, visit https://heroesofdemocracy.org/
What other projects are the key creatives developing or working on now?
I have a short horror film that is currently going to festivals called, "Old Mrs. Jenkins", be on the lookout for that! I am also working on my next documentary about The Aquadettes, which is a women's, senior citizen, synchronized swim team, I will be done filming that in late 2019.
Interview: December 2018
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The Last Doll Lady
In the 1950s a program called Dolls for Democracy was started. Women known as "doll ladies" would travel to local schools and teach children, through the use of hand carved wooden character dolls, about why racism and intolerance are wrong. Over the decades the program has faded into obscurity, but one woman has made it her life's mission to reignite a nations passion for the programs hopeful message. Selma Bukstein was one of the original doll ladies, now 60 years later and at the age of 91, she is the last doll lady. The Last Doll Lady follows Selma's efforts to revitalize the program and pass on its legacy to a new generation.
Director: Taryn Hough
Producer: Taryn Hough
Writer: Taryn Hough
About the writer, director and producer:
TARYN HOUGH was born and raised in Southern California. Her love for cinema started at a young age, when her mother would take her to the movies every weekend, which sometimes resulted in seeing not age appropriate films. Taryns' love for documentaries started in Jr High when she was saw "American Movie" for the first time. Taryn has worked in front of and behind the camera for over 10 years. Her style of documentary film making is "Observational Cinema". The Last Doll Lady is not Taryn’s first film, but it is her first documentary and she hopes you enjoy it.
Key cast: Selma Bukstein
Looking for: Journalists, Film Festival Directors
Facebook: The Last Doll Lady
Funders: Chain Smoking Monkey Productions
Where can I watch it next and in the coming month? The Last Doll Lady had its final screening for 2018 in Pennsylvania, in early December. Keep up to date with the film by following us on Facebook or Instagram.