Monday, July 9, 2018

Won't You Be My Neighbor?

★★★★★ - A Review by Cameron Kanachki

For 33 years, Fred Rogers was an inspiration to children worldwide. Through his show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Rogers was able to touch the lives & hearts of children with his kind & humble personality.

Won't You Be My Neighbor? takes an in-depth look at the life, legacy & philosophy of Fred Rogers, & what comes of that is the best documentary of the year. The film follows Fred Rogers, a young man from Pittsburgh with so much ahead of him. Rogers was very devoted to his Christian faith, & joined the seminary, eventually becoming ordained.

However, Rogers was still disillusioned by one major piece of influence on the people of America: television. He despised it because it wasn't used to nurture & teach, ideals that Rogers felt were imperative ideals to be taught.

Using this frustration, Rogers left the seminary & went into television. Looking to avoid the reliance on advertising & merchandising that television had, he created Mister Rogers' Neighborhood at WQED in Pittsburgh in 1968. Rogers based his show on being his true self, treating kids the way they should be treated, understanding their fears, & teaching kids to love themselves & others.

He started & ended the show the same way: starting by changing into his trademark cardigan sweater & sneakers while singing Won't You Be My Neighbor?; & ending by singing It's Such a Good Feeling. During the show, he would talk earnestly & calmly about childhood interests & issues. Eventually, over the course of time, Rogers would cement himself as a cultural icon & a guiding voice for children worldwide.

Morgan Neville's direction is spellbinding. Through interviews with Fred Rogers' family, friends, & colleagues, along with simple animated segments & archival footage, Neville is able to stir many emotions in us, & bring us deeper into who Fred Rogers was & what he did for so many children.

This is one of the best documentaries I've ever seen. It's an emotional, heartfelt, & overall amazing tribute to an amazing man, one like whom we had never seen before, & one like whom we may never see again for as long as humanity exists. Fred Rogers will be sorely missed. But he touched many lives, & inspired us to be more kind to everyone around us. And that will be his greatest achievement.

Won't You Be My Neighbor? was seen by me at the Landmark Main Art Theatre in Royal Oak, MI on Friday, June 22, 2018. It is in theaters everywhere. Its runtime is 94 minutes, & it is rated PG-13 for some thematic elements & language.

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