Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is not just a movie. It’s a profound spiritual experience. The subject? The incredible Fred Rogers and his PBS show that ran from 1968 until 2001, which makes it one of the longest running American TV programs. Mr. Rogers Neighborhood was Fred’s project to help improve television for children. An ordained Presbyterian minister, this gentle man objected to the violence in most programs available to youngsters back in the 60s.
So he embarked on a mission to change all this. His personal talents as a musician/songwriter, actor, and puppeteer contributed to the success of this worthy project. But I think his kind way of interacting with the children on his show (“I like you just the way you are!”) and his willingness to deal with important issues of the day -- such as racism -- were the main reasons for the program’s longevity. Of course, the fascinating guests also helped. For example, it’s such a treat watching the great cellist Yo-Yo Ma as a youngster talking with Mr. Rogers.
Be prepared to laugh, cry, and feel nostalgic while watching this splendid documentary directed by Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom). Neville includes wonderful clips from many of the live shows and revealing interviews with some of the show regulars.
Mr. Rogers the world needs now.
His kindness serves to calm somehow.
This fine film shows him on T.V.
and how his hit show came to be.
He talked to kids about their fears,
about their dreams, about their tears.
So many things he taught so well.
He made us fall under his spell.
The guests on Mr. Rogers’ show
were all ones children loved to know.
Important themes were simple, sure.
But truths they proved and will endure.
This documentary has won
the hearts of almost everyone.
I hope you watch it soon, my friend.
It’s a treasure from start to end.
“We all have only one life to live on earth. And through television, we have the choice of encouraging others to demean this life or to cherish it in creative, imaginative ways." --- Fred Rogers
“I'm convinced that when we help our children find healthy ways of dealing with their feelings--ways that don't hurt them or anyone else--we're helping to make our world a safer, better place.” --- Fred Rogers
(Released by Focus Features and rated “PG-13” for some thematic elements and language.)
For more information about Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, go to the IMDb or Rotten Tomatoes website.