Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
Rated Parental Guidance (Language May Offend) ~ Runs 94 minutes
Dir.: Morgan Neville, US
“With its focus on Fred Rogers, the children’s television host who extolled the virtues of positivity, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is undeniably well timed. It doesn’t have to strain at all for immediate relevance. Early in Morgan Neville’s heartfelt, moving documentary, we see scenes from one of the first episodes in which puppet character King Friday XIII builds a wall to keep out those he finds undesirable, before kindness brings it down again. This segment of low-budget ’60s TV carries a message we need now more than ever. If it seems egregious to approach Rogers and his show with a political reading, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? may surprise even those who grew up watching the series, with its revelation of the many world events and concerns it addressed. In his gentle, empathetic way, Rogers helped little ones deal with everything from Vietnam to 9/11. After Robert Kennedy was gunned down, one puppet’s plea for a definition of ‘assassination’ was compassionately answered. Rogers was devoted to the innocence of childhood, but he also knew there was no way to shield kids from the ugliness of the adult world. He offered a calm, reassuring buffer to it...Through interviews with those who knew Rogers (and vintage on-screen conversations with the man himself, who died in 2003), along with illuminating behind-the-scenes footage, the director elicits positive vibes about his subject, painting a portrait of a man who was every bit as decent and kind as he appeared to his millions of viewers.” - Michael Gingold, Time Out New York