documentary premieres at Sundance film festival
World According to Sesame Street" offers a behind-the-scenes
look at Sesame Workshop from 1969 to today
of Sesame Workshop
Egypt, a local variation of the "Sesame Street" gang encourages
literacy and empowerment for girls in a sharply male-dominated culture.
In an Israeli-Palestinian edition, the show sought to build mutual
understanding. In South Africa, an HIV-positive Muppet helps teach
children about AIDS.
World According to Sesame Street," a documentary that premiered
over the weekend at the Sundance Film Festival, recounts the role
of Muppets as goodwill ambassadors around the world in localized
versions of the children's TV show that has been a U.S. staple since
by directors Linda Goldstein Knowlton and Linda Hawkins Costigan offers
a behind-the-scenes look at the Sesame Workshop in New York City,
where the stewards of "Sesame Street" offer assistance for
overseas producers to tailor the concept to their own countries' needs.
culture often is greeted with skepticism or even hostility, yet
"Sesame Street" seems to find a warm reception wherever
sure there was some trepidation, but the fact of the matter is,
this is a model developed over the past 36, 37 years, and it's an
incredibly adaptable model," said Hawkins Costigan, 37. "It's
so pliable to all these different countries, and the local researchers
dictate their own curriculum. I haven't heard of a situation where
the researchers weren't welcoming of it."
World According to Sesame Street" takes a behind-the-scenes
look at efforts to export the popular children's show to other
grew out of the filmmakers' curiosity after learning about Kami,
the fluffy yellow HIV-positive Muppet that debuted on South Africa's
"Takalani Sesame" in 2002, causing a stir among supporters
and critics in the United States.
The perky character,
whose mother died of AIDS, was created after the Sesame Workshop's
South African partners insisted the show had to help educate children
about HIV and AIDS.
American company and show we grew up on that we love so much, this
American icon, really, is going around the world and doing these
culturally specific co-productions was really, really fascinating,"
said Goldstein Knowlton, 40, an executive producer on 2002's "Whale
regarding Kami, we thought, they're using Muppets as catalysts for
social change. That's remarkable."
According to Sesame Street" centers on the South African show
and two new incarnations, a joint effort to bridge gaps between
Albanians and Serbs in war-torn Kosovo and a version intended to
educate youths in Bangladesh, where many children leave school at
tender ages to find work.
from the U.S. original such as Big Bird may pop up on overseas versions,
which also feature Muppets created to suit the local culture. The
German incarnation features a large bear, while the Bangladesh show
has a Bengal tiger and a collection of traditional puppets bearing
no resemblance to Muppets.
"Sesame Street" have been created in nearly two dozen
countries, including China, Japan, Mexico, Poland and Portugal.
For all the
regional variations, the core of the show remains the same as the
original "Sesame Street," fostering respect and understanding
for people's differences.
was a "slight rude awakening" after growing up on those
"Sesame Street" lessons, Goldstein Knowlton said, "and
then coming into the world and going, 'Wow, people really don't
like each other. They kill each other all the time."'
so, the tenets of "Sesame Street" linger, said Hawkins
Costigan, who grew up in a multiracial family and saw "Sesame
Street" incorporate a multiracial cast.
it on television, I had no idea that people just didn't do that.
That to me was completely normal. I think the show is part of the
basis of me having friends from all over, friends from all different
nationalities," Hawkins Costigan said.
Street Season 45 premieres Monday September 15
Muppeteer Kevin Clash resigns from Sesame Street
Clash takes leave from Sesame Street
Street to air hurricane special Friday November 9
Street Old School Volume 3 coming to DVD November 6
• Sesame Street Season 43 begins September 24 on PBS
support essential for production to begin on "I Am Big
Am Big Bird" Caroll Spinney documentary in development