Monday, February 5, 2018

Sundance Film Festival: Won't You Be My Neighbor

I'm delighted to share one last take from Sundance 2018 from my wife, Arielle Friedtanzer, who got the chance to see this documentary.

Won't You Be My Neighbor?
Directed by Morgan Neville
Doc Premieres

“Won’t You Be My Neighbor” is as pleasant and unobjectionable a documentary as was “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” the television show in which its subject, Fred Rogers, starred for decades. It was thorough, offering context into the events and relationships that impacted Rogers’ life, and allowed the audience to understand the depth of his being beyond his celebrity persona.

Rogers was a devoted teacher and an inspirational advocate for children and truth. When others tried to shield children from the realities of their world, Rogers brought the pain of social relationships, current events, and discrimination to light in ways that allowed children to engage with them, helping them to deconstruct stigma and prejudice, and understand the world around them. The documentary includes interviews from Rogers’ wife and sons, as well as friends, coworkers, and those responsible for carrying on his professional legacy at the Fred Rogers Center, offering audiences a panorama of the life he lived and the person he was behind the camera.

During the Q and A after the film’s premiere at the Sundance Film Festival, Rogers’ friend and one of the interviewees from the film, who was in attendance, commended Morgan Neville, the film’s director, for creating a documentary that was true to who Rogers was. “The film didn’t paint him as a saint,” he said, but it did stress the importance of Tikkun Olam, the Jewish concept of repairing the world, with footage of Rogers speaking to his audience of the time and impressing it upon them. His words ring as true today as they did then, imploring us to fix our broken world.

The crowd laughed awkwardly at moments that resembled our current government, felt uplifted in moments of joy and humor, and even shed tears at more personal and sentimental parts of the film, making for a touching, educational, and entertaining viewing experience, and one that I would highly recommend to experience yourself!

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