The World According to Sesame Street
Linda Goldstein Knowiton, Linda Hawkins Costigan, Patricia Bischetti, Christine Burrill, Nelson Hume, Kate Amend
The World According to Sesame Street runs counter to the usual critiques of the malevolent effects of the export of American culture. Contrary to films whose examination of artistic production and/or the process of media creation is, frankly, often quite indulgent and boring, this documentary by Linda Goldstein Knowlton and Linda Hawkins Costigan is both insightful and uncommonly revealing. Indeed, the system and approach behind what is now an American institution becomes the primary focus of the filmmakers as we follow the activities of three producers working in the world's most difficult public arenas: Bangladesh, Kosovo, and South Africa. These three producers from New York's Sesame Street workshop take Sesame Street as we know it and localize it with indigenous songs, puppets, and curricula. However, this is far from the straightforward, benevolent task it may seem to be. The cultural and production challenges of formulating each region's program are a complex of the political and the personal and make The World According to Sesame Street dramatic and edifying viewing. Education is always more than simply alphabets and numbers, and the contradictions inherent in teaching humane values in worlds where AIDS, ethnic genocide, and poverty dominate the landscape make this film a primer on art, media, and intercultural dialogue.