After retiring from a long career as an actor and theater director, Bruce Miller begins recording and sharing deeply intimate videos featuring conversations with his growing collection of ventriloquist’s dummies. For his daughter Emma, these videos offer a strange portal into her father’s psyche, making her realize how little she actually knows her dad. What is the most authentic version of Bruce, whose external-facing persona has always veered toward the performative — and why is he deriving fulfillment from long talks with invented characters that he, in fact, speaks for?

In an attempt to understand Bruce’s motivations and repair a father-daughter relationship fractured by divorce and infidelity, Emma digs into home videos, conducts interviews with Bruce’s puppets, and revisits sites from her and her dad’s respective childhoods. As Emma and Bruce struggle through frank conversations about a shared family history’s darker chapters, they decide to commission the creation of dummies that resemble themselves in the hopes that their puppet avatars can help them say what they need to hear from one other.

FATHER FIGURES culminates as Bruce and Emma write, rehearse, and film hybridized scenes using these dummies, allowing them to share more deeply than ever before and forge a new vision for their relationship. Ultimately, these scenes — like the film itself — blur the line between authenticity and construction, while creating a space for honesty and healing through performance.

Make A Donation