Monday, November 10, 2008

I Love This City

While I was putting around the internet last Thursday, I came across an announcement that the JCC in Manhattan was going to have a discussion with the director and scenes from the documentary in progress When Muppets Dream of Peace on Saturday. I immediately signed up and pulled out my subway map to figure out how to get there.

The last time I saw a documentary about Sesame Workshop, it meant a lot to me. I had heard whispers and rumors of a new documentary, but it was never anything that I could confirm or find any good information on. I was extremely excited to hear that I was going to get a sneak peak. Saturday was a soggy day, but we headed out anyway.

The World According to Sesame Street is the other documentary. It talks about the origins of Sesame Street and about some of the productions that Sesame Workshop is working in other parts of the world. One of the co-productions that they showed was in Kosovo. There they were starting two new shows that worked together to teach Albanian and Serbian children about each other to hopefully bring peace and tolerance to a younger generation. It was a difficult task especially because of the violence that was physically keeping everyone one apart. There is one scene that shows the whole group together brainstorming ideas for their first episodes. The first lesson they came up with to teach their kids was how to recognize a grenade and what to do if you find one. That scene changed my world view. I was teaching kids how to move stage right and stage left (I use to teach children's theater) at the same time that kids were being taught how to avoid explosives.

The new documentary When Muppets Dream of Peace is about a workshop project that is very similar to Kosovo. This project involved three productions. One for Israel, Palestine, and Jordan. Here is a video from a news segment about how one of the productions resulted in an actual Sesame Street:

At the JCC we got to see a few scenes and there was a panel discussion with Executive Produce Jane Coleman, filmmaker David Van Taylor, and Danny Labin from the Sesame Workshop (who you just saw in the news clip). It was a fascinating session about the challenges that the project faced and how they over came some of those issues. I am excited about seeing this documentary when it is finished. According to Mr. Van Taylor it was a growing experience for everyone and it sounds like they worked out some great solutions. I haven't found any official information about the documentary online, but here is what the postcard they passed out says:

When Muppets Dream of Peace
Coming to PBS 2009
from Highlander Pictures & Lumiere Productions
a documentary by David Van Taylor
Executive Producer Jane Coleman
Director of Photography Ramez Kazmouz
Co-Producer Noam Shalev
Editor Cindy Kaplan-Rooney

When Muppets Dream of Peace is made possible by support from The Ford Foundation, the Rokefeller Brothers Fund, and the Public Broadcasting Service.

We are currently seeking finishing funds.

For further information or to help, contact Jane Coleman:

While we were waiting for the discussion to start we found out that the JCC was having an evening discussion titled Planet of the Arabs about the view of Arabs portrayed by American media. Our plan was to find some food in between the two sessions and make it to them both. Unfortunately, we got caught up in some huge slices of pizza and we were too late getting back. My only excuse is that we must have lost a chunk of time in a carb induced daze. It all worked out though. We headed home early, and as soon as we got to our apartment, some Veteran's Day fireworks began on the river. It was a great day. I am loving living near all of this exciting stuff.

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