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“Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

July 1, 2018
Film Review by Ron Wells
I never watched Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. I was too old, and didn’t see much need for it. I thought it was a bit silly, and it didn’t really resonate during the turmoil of the ’60’s. Yesterday, I saw Won’t You Be My Neighbor, a documentary about Fred Rogers. I highly, highly recommend this film. Directed by Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom), this documentary is the perfect antidote for the crassness and crudeness that dominates our lives.  It will certainly hold your attention for  the 1 hour and 34 minutes you’re in the theater. 
If you’re lucky, it will stay with you much longer as it seeps deeply into your soul.

Fred Rogers was an ordained minister and a man who had carefully studied early childhood development. He wanted to give an alternative to early television with its violence in both programming and commercials. In his calm, soft, and slow way, he taught children positive values and how to interact with others. There are too many highlights to recount here, but certainly his inviting the African American mailman to take off his shoes and put his feet next to Mr. Rogers’ bare feet in the wading pool, when all over the country children of color were told they couldn’t swim with white children, was quietly, but profoundly, ground breaking. 
His interaction with Jeff Erlanger, a little boy who was in a wheelchair for life, will induce tears. And yes, even his interaction with KoKo, the gorilla who could do sign language, is stunning in its simplicity and power. In our culture in which everything is fast and faster, he taught the value of slowing down time.
He taught the value of one minute by showing how long one minute is.
Neville does not back away from the other facets of Rogers career. Eddie Murphy, Johnny Carson and others are shown parodying Rogers. And yes, these are still quite funny. And then there is Fox news and others who are seen calling him “evil” for telling a generation of children that they were “special.” Yet what he really did more than anything else was to teach love. For yourself. For others. 
Whatever you may have thought about Mr. Rogers in the past, leave your preconceived notions behind and go see this documentary.
Think about where we are now, and then think about what he was telling children, and what he was telling adults about children. In hindsight, he was a man ahead of his time. More importantly, he was a man whose message we desperately need now

One Comment leave one →
  1. July 9, 2018 7:37 am

    I’ve heard a lot of great buzz about this movie & looking forward to seeing it. Love morgan Neville’s work, saw 20 feet from stardom 3 times.

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