I got to see this wonderful documentary at Silver Docs* this morning. It’s only about Elmo in small part, and if you’re one of the many adults who finds him annoying, that shouldn’t stop you from seeing this film. It seems silly to suggest I’m about to spoil a documentary, but I suppose I should be considerate and say SPOILERS.
It’s actually about Kevin Clash‘s mostly happy journey from backyard shows to Captain Kangaroo and The Great Space Coaster, to working in Labyrinth and meeting Jim Henson, to making Elmo a muppety symbol of love, joining The Muppets, and taking over Sesame Street, and finally to looking forward to the next generation of Puppeteers.
You may know that there is a trilogy by Philip Pullman called His Dark Materials that’s about a universe where it’s implied that people’s souls live outside of them in animal forms called daemons.
It seemed clear to me as I watched this documentary that the best of the puppeteers show us their souls through the characters they bring to life. Certainly there may be some who are just working a job, but this film highlighted the best: the Hensons and the Clashes. Their work touches us because it’s as unadulterated a glimpse into the hearts of caring people as most of us will get to see.
The one thing it’s not is: it’s not a documentary about horrors and tragedies. There are no dark obstacles here, merely a Dark Crystal. But I enjoyed it more than I can properly say. I hope you get to watch it, too.
I cried, I laughed, and it’s not just a movie.
* It’s no longer playing at Silver Docs**, but during the post-show Q&A, two of the people behind the documentary said there would be showings in NYC and LA in August in order to be considered for the Oscars, and then hopefully wider distribution after that.
** BUT, the schedule of the AFI Silver Docs festival continues! You should attend!