Dollhouse, a recently-released documentary short, opens with a woman sitting at a workstation, surrounded by infant body parts. Kate Charles is an artist who specializes in “reborns,” or dolls that look remarkably like newborn babies. They are floppy and soft, with glistening eyes and curling fingers. “It is creepy,” Charles says. “There is no other word for it.”
Directed by Ian Kibbey and Corey Creasey, Dollhouse premiered at the South by Southwest festival, where it scooped up the Special Jury Recognition in the Documentary Shorts category. In its seven-minute runtime, the film paints a portrait of an artist who is deeply committed to her unusual craft. “When I do these dolls, it’s emotional torture,” Charles says. “Because I want to have that level of control.” In one shot, she sits in an armchair cradling a doll to make sure it is sufficiently life-like. “I don’t like them too stiff, because babies are big floppy bean bags,” she says.
When Charles mails a doll off to its new “mommy,” she wraps it in a soft blanket before packing it in bubble wrap. “If someone feels a need to have something in their arms to hold, I don’t see that there’s anything wrong with that,” she says. “There’s something about holding a baby, whether it be real or a replica, that just has a calming influence.
Read the full story at the New Yorker.