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ON PBS' "INDEPENDENT LENS" TONIGHT 4/6 at 9:00 PM ON WETA . . .

(My favorite film at last year's SILVERDOCS Film Festival. Here is my review from last year.)

"Being Elmo" A Puppeteer's Journey" (****-76 minutes)
Winner of the 2011 Sundance Documentary Audience Award earlier this year, this delightful heart-warming story of African-American Baltimore native Kevin Clash not only could easily be nominated for next year's Academy Awards, but here's an early prediction that it will win it. The talent behind (inside and under) the beloved Sesame Street character, Elmo, Kevin knew his life calling early on and pursued it to the hilt. He began by putting on puppet shows for his Turner Station neighborhood friends, and then later he received a huge break on a local television show that led to working with the infamous Captain Kangaroo. This ultimately landed him the Muppet gig at the top of the puppet food chain. So curious was Kevin to learn how the Muppets' "skin" appeared seamless that he took a side trip away from his high school's field trip in New York to seek out Muppet builder Kevin Love, who later introduced young Kevin to Jim Henson. One of the more interesting tidbits is the fact Elmo was rescued off the scrap heap when its original human voice (the late Richard Hunt, who gave Elmo a deep caveman inflection) hated the character and asked Kevin in 1984 if he wanted to give it a try. The rest was history. The editing by Justin Weinstein, screenplay by co-director Phil Shane, and score by Joel Goodman are all top-notch that will surely help to put the documentary in strong contention for an Academy Award. You will laugh, you will cry, and you will be amazed at Kevin's incredible journey that began with his backyard puppet shows and now continues with his key role perpetuating the brilliance and joy that Jim Henson's Muppets bring to the world. The film was bought by ITVS and Independent Lens and will hit the theaters on October 21. This one is not to be missed!

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