The World According To Sesame Street

by Allan Tong for Festival Products

Another audience favourite was The World According To Sesame Street. Far from a puff piece, this fine work by Americans Linda Goldstein Knowlton and Linda Hawkins Costigan follows foreign Sesame Street production teams trying to export the venerable children’s educational series to trouble spots like Kosovo, Bangladesh and Capetown. These dedicated team battle ethnic violence, religious repression and even natural disaster to get their versions of Sesame Street on-air.

In post-war Kosovo, Serb and Albanian producers rise above ethnic tensions to collaborate on a twin series until street violence jeopardizes the entire production. In South Africa, producers battle controversy to create the first-ever Muppet with AIDS. (Surprisingly, right-wing Americans opposed the AIDS puppet until they learned more about the character and its circumstances.)

Meanwhile in Bangladesh, religious and political strife, curfews and flooding threaten the fate of the TV launch. Knowlton and Costigan never editorialize. Instead, they keep the camera running, let their characters talk and edit judiciously. Both entertaining and educational, just like Sesame Street.

Allan Tong is a filmmaker, Toronto-based festival programmer and film journalist who specializes in rock music.

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