Friday, August 24, 2012

Friday Night in Stuyvesant Heights: MoCADA's 13th Annual KIDflix Film Fest of Bed-Stuy presents "Being Elmo" at Fulton Park

This evening the B46 Limited bus took us from its start in Williamsburg across Broadway and down Malcolm X Boulevard to Utica and Fulton, where we got off to spend a great night in pretty Fulton Park watching the intriguing documentary Being Elmo, part of the 13th annual KIDflix Film Fest of Bed-Stuy, a presentation of the wonderful the Museum of Contemporary African Diasporan Arts (MoCADA).
We've been riding the B46 bus on Utica Avenue for decades,  Fifty years ago, as an 11-year-old, we took it from near our house at Avenue N to Church Avenue to buy some comic books and magazines -- the September 22, 1962 issue of Time had a very young Ted Kennedy on the cover, along with a photo portfolio of "The New New York" inside -- at the outdoor newsstand at the bus stop there, only to realize we left ourselves with just a dime, not the fifteen cents carfare we needed to get back home, so we ended up having to walk the 22 blocks back.
See, we still remember we were once a kid ourselves.  Although the KIDflix Film Fest is aimed at kids, their parents and other adults need not feel bored because MoCADA makes sure the movies are ones grownups would enjoy, too, high-quality productions like this year's documentaries What's on Your Plate?, The First Grader, Freedom Riders, and tonight's presentation of Being Elmo: A Puppeteer's Journey, director Constance Marks' fascinating 2011 portrait of Kevin Clash, the man behind the popular Sesame Street Muppet.
Narrated by Whoopi Goldberg, the film highlights Kevin Clash's remarkable determination, talent, passion and perseverance from his childhood in Baltimore's African-American community through his adolescent breakthroughs  working with his meticulously handmade puppets and finally to his emergence as the voice and spirit of Elmo, the most lovable and innocently childlike of the Muppets.
We missed the 6:30 p.m. appearance of Elmo,
At about 7 p.m., we got to Fulton Park
-- a cheery, leafy oasis directly across Fulton Street from Boys and Girls High School, it's named (like Fulton Street, after Robert Fulton, the first successful launcher of the steamboat.
The park offers paved paths for walking, jogging, biking and dog-walking, as well as a playground and plenty of space to relax. How did we never stop here before? We liked the little park animals designs on the stones by the fences.
At this point, a large crowd of kids and their parents were already in their seats or nearby.
As Wikipedia's entry on the KIDfest Film Fest notes,
The festival was founded and is organized by local artist TRUE with the help of MoCADA Executive Director Laurie A. Cumbo. It has been produced in partnership with African Film Festival, Inc. since 2003, and has also collaborated with arts organizations such as DCTV, Red Clay Arts, Reel Sisters of the Diaspora Film Festival, Scenarios USA and others. It is funded, in part, by corporate sponsors, governmental agencies, and audience contributions. The festival is an extension of MoCADA’s public outreach programs, and strives to present films that further the museum’s mission, to “…give a more accurate portrayal of contributions to the historical, artistic and cultural landscape of the world by people of African descent.
The organizers also try to showcase local and independent filmmakers and films made by youth. Screenings are often preceded by live music and dance performances and workshops that are thematically linked to the night’s films. Selections have included: Amandla: A Revolution in Four-Part Harmony; The Boys of Baraka; Bronx Princess; Chisholm '72: Unbought & Unbossed; Slingshot Hip Hop; and War/Dance. Each year, the festival ends with an interactive “Sing & Dance-Along” to The Wiz that features puppets, a costume contest, and a tribute to Michael Jackson and Lena Horne.
After we watched a short film about the groundbreaking PBS kids' show The Electric Company, several community people who were longtime supporters of the KIDSflix Fest gave a few brief remarks. The tall (6'10") and impressive Robert E. Cornegy, Jr., the Democratic District Leader in the 56th A.D., said that five of the kids in the crowd belonged to him and his wife Michelle.
The incomparable Laurie Cumbo - a real community treasure - was introduced before the Being Elmo began, and she made a few announcements. Tomorrow night, Saturday, will be the showing of The First Grader to make up for last Friday night's rainout, and next Friday night will be the showing of The Wiz, along with the tribute to Michael Jackson and the costume party which Laurie said she intends to win. (Kids and adults can dress as characters from The Wiz or Thriller.)
She also had a quiz for the kids to win discount coupons to local stores (we all got ones for Brooklyn Swirl, the frozen yogurt place on Marcus Garvey Boulevard). Kids answered such questions "What is the famous Bed-Stuy bed-and-breakfast on McDonough Street?" (Akwaaba - we have a friend in Oakland who stays there whenever she's in New York) - and "What does akwaaba mean?" (welcome, in Twi) and "Who is the director of Crooklyn?" (hint: initials are SL).
Then Being Elmo came on, and we stood by the fence in the back and really enjoyed it.
And as we rode home on the B46 bus through Stuyvesant Heights and Bushwick back to Williamsburg, we thought about how grateful we were that we decided to come to tonight's KIDflix Fest show.

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