Being Elmo: A Puppeteer’s Journey (2012)

Directed by Constance Marks

Sesame Street is one of the most important television shows in history I would wager, children’s shows most assuredly. And much of that genius came from the mind of Jim Henson, along with the talents of a number of other folks like Frank Oz, who made puppets come to life and communicate with children all over the country, and even all over the world. A special talent like this often goes unnoticed by most who either don’t think about the man behind the muppet, or even that there is one (a mistake you cannot blame for these puppeteer’s are great talents). One of the most popular of all of the muppets, Elmo, was not a creation of the great Jim Henson, or of one of his closest collaborators from the hay day of muppets. It was Kevin Clash, a young black man who had come up from humble beginnings in the Baltimore area.

It is impossible at this point to write about this film without the unfortunate mention of the controversay that has surrounded Clash the last few months. It does sour the experience with thos accusations in the back of my mind, but to imagine the film without knowledge of the distractions would be to imagine a wonderful human being and a wonderful little film. Even though Clash has admitted relations with one of the accusers, though not of wrong doing, the controversy is still only allegations, so the benefit of the doubt must be given. And after seeing this film, I so want to be able to give him that benefit.

The film is a wonderful document of the will of one man and the encouragement of his parents. There are not too many people who take up puppeteering, and even fewer who are as talented as Kevin Clash, which makes his story unique. Given the circumstance of his youth, what his parents did with his interest, enthusiasm and talent should be lauded and awarded. There are too many parents who direct a child’s life with a will of their own, as opposed to nurturing the imagination and genius innately found within the child. Kevin has brought joy to many many children this world over in his career, and that ability is to be cherished. Thank you Mr. and Mrs. Clash. And though the news that surfaced after the making of this film may sour its profile, that does not stop the nicely constructed chronicle of the manufacturing of joy.

*** – Very Good

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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