The visionary partnership of Jim Henson and Joan Ganz Cooney haunts this affecting look at the artistry behind Sesame Street’s beloved Elmo muppet. Kevin Clash--an awkward Baltimorean teenager who found his voice through puppetry--came to Jim Henson’s attention as a performer on Captain Kangaroo before claiming national attention as the sing-song voice of Elmo. Almost overnight, the show had a central character, America her first preschool superstar and Henson a natural successor to his role as master-puppeteer. In telling Clash’s story, director Constance Marks outlines the fascinating collaboration between Henson and the Children’s Television Workshop, the state-funded educational body founded by Cooney to improve the nation’s preparatory skills via a Saturday morning children’s TV format. It took Henson’s ludic genius to hold pre-school America’s attention, filtering arithmetic and literacy--and affective issues of the day, like AIDS and terrorism--through the fluffy world of Bert and Ernie, Big Bird, Kermit, Elmo et al. The result was Sesame Street--a landmark in children’s programming, founded on a concrete pre-school curriculum and lofty ideals of multicultural opportunity. Clash is himself a product of these ideals: a shy black kid from a low-income suburb of Maryland, he was among the ten million-or-so children who grew up counting along with Bert and Ernie on the living room carpets of 1970s inner-city America. Clash credits Sesame Street as the defining inspiration for his career, and Being Elmo reflects on the show’s status as a media breakthrough for multi-racial children’s characters--its brownstone setting a more inclusive reflection of the American pre-school experience. The show has a fitting mascot in Elmo--those plastic features alive with curiosity and love--and the story of Clash neatly underlines Sesame Street as a democratic force for good. --Leo Batchelor
Beloved by millions of children around the world, Elmo is an international icon. However, few people know the soft-spoken man behind the furry red monster: Kevin Clash.
Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, Being Elmo follows Clash s remarkable career, while also offering a behind-the-scenes look at Sesame Street and the Jim Henson Workshop. As a teenager growing up in Baltimore in the 1970s, Clash had very different aspirations from his classmates he wanted to be a part of Henson s team, the creative force responsible for delivering the magic of Sesame Street on a daily basis.
With a supportive family behind him, Kevin made his dreams come true.
Featuring interviews with Frank Oz, Rosie O Donnell, Cheryl Henson, Joan Ganz Cooney and Clash himself, filmmaker Constance Marks insightful and personal documentary tells the story of one of the world s most adored and recognizable characters and the visionary behind the icon.
Awards and Accreditations:
Sundance Film Festival, Special Jury Prize - Documentary, 2011.