As a kid, Fred Rogers was a part of my life. Not a day went by that I didn’t watch him come through that door and change into his comfy cardigan and sneaks to embark upon teachable lessons with his friends and puppets. What made Mr. Rogers compelling to watch as a child was his soft-spoken calm voice and the fact that he never spoke down to us, but instead communicated in a way that we could comprehend without judgement.
What I didn’t know is that Fred Rogers was an ordained minister, single-handedly halted the Nixon administration from putting an end to public television, was overweight as a child and after shedding the pounds maintained the same weight throughout his lifetime by swimming. Directed by Morgan Neville, who brought us the Oscar winning documentary 20 Feet From Stardom, Won’t You Be My Neighbor is a warm, welcomed stroll down the memory lane of one’s childhood. Neville said it best… “Fred Rogers is an iconic figure…one of the every few people who occupy a time in most people’s lives that exists before they were formed as adults, before they were liberal or conservative, Democrat or Republican – before they were anything.”
Existing in this chaotic world we now inhabit, it was refreshing to watch someone who existed during at time when America wasn’t a tabloid by the second society. Life was simple and so was he. He fought for those who could not fight for themselves and demonstrated his disgust over racism using a simple wading pool with his friend and castmate “Officer Clemmons.”
The most touching moment of this doc that actually brought me to tears was toward the end of the film when Rogers said “The best thing we can do is let someone know they’re loved and capable of loving”. Fred Rogers was loved by children and adults all over the world. Thanks to Morgan Neville’s nuanced journey illustrating what the best of our society can be, I have no doubt that “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” will touch and break hearts all over the world. Thank goodness his light was here if only for a little while.
Produced by Focus Features “Won’t You Be My Neighbor” hits theatres on June 8th.
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