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IFFBoston ’11 Review: Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey

I honestly didn’t know what to expect. Everything I’d heard about ‘Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey’ had been positive, I’d heard it’d be moving, I’d heard it would make me cry. I can say with 100% certainty, ‘Being Elmo,’ moved me to tears. You spend most of the film smiling from ear to ear, and the other times tearing up, from both joy, and sadness.

Directed by Constance Marks, ‘Being Elmo,’ tells the story of Kevin Clash, and his rise to stardom as one of Sesame Street’s most beloved characters, Elmo. Kevin Clash began his life living outside Baltimore. Part of a large family, and of modest beginnings, Clash was inspired by Jim Henson and his work on Sesame Street, and the Muppet show to begin developing his own puppets.

Clash was barely 16/17 when he started performing. Putting on shows first in his backyard, and in other venues for a variety of audiences – putting great focus on children. He was discovered by a local television station, who brought him on their program.

Kevin was obsessed with perfecting his puppets, making them just as good as the ones from the Muppet Workshop. His Mother, a huge supporter of the path Kevin was on, actually called up Kermit Love, the master muppet creator. She set up an opportunity for Kevin to meet him – and go to the workshop. It was here where the final fire was lit under him. Not only did he get to see first hand the work of Kermit Love and Jim Henson, but now he knew that he absolutely had to work with the Muppets.

Kevin Clash had a dream, and by working hard, he got to exactly where he wanted to be.

The film is amazing. It literally shows you every step Clash takes from the beginning of making puppets, to when
he first slides the Elmo puppet onto his hand. Using a variety of archival footage of the different shows Kevin
worked on, as well as family photos, the film does a great job of making you feel like you are moving along up with him. In addition to all these, we go behind the scenes of the Sesame workshop, as well as have the opportunity to see the other wonderful people that perform these amazing characters. The interviews are quality, with appearances by Frank Oz, and Whoopi Goldberg, and the technical polish of the film is superb.

The title may suggest that the film only really deals with Elmo. However, in all actuality, the film shows that Elmo would not exist, if not for the experiences Kevin went through in his life. Inspired by kindness, and the love of his family, these are the qualities Kevin has put into Elmo. ‘Being Elmo,’ will be getting a theatrical release, as well as coming to television. No matter your age, do not miss this film.

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