Belly Talkers

Director: Sandra Luckow

Institute History

  • 1996 Sundance Film Festival


Director Sandra Luckow combines her talents as a filmmaker and her long-term interest and involvement in the world of ventriloquism in Belly Talkers, a very entertaining look at the past, present, and future of the art. Intercutting performances, historical footage and photographs, and interviews and backstage conversation, Luckow and her collaborators, Eve and Maude Chilton, present a fascinating and engaging study of the personalities and their alter egos (their dummies) that is sometimes nostalgic, sometimes hysterically funny, sometimes strange, and often poignant.

Luckow and “Juanito” set out on a road trip that explores the range of personas and/or purposes of different ventriloquists, taking us into what is a somewhat arcane universe but one that has certainly touched or amused most of us through the years. Interviews and footage of such famous figures as Edgar Bergen and Charlie McCarthy, Paul Winchell, and Shari Lewis and special moments with Candace Bergen and magician David Copperfield, who got his start as a ventriloquist, are an integral part of the filmmakers’ journey.

But it’s not just these well-known entertainers who are of interest. A gospel ventriloquist who evangelizes, the psychotherapist who works with children, a Vegas-style entertainer, and a nine-year-old boy who represents the future are each part of this distinctive world. Aspects of performance, figures and technique, and the nature of the profession all become part of this in-depth treatment that will charm and intrigue anyone who has ever been curious about how these puppets speak.

— Geoffrey Gilmore

Screening Details

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