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  • Writer's pictureRob Ervin

Rob Reviews "Won't You Be My Neighbor?"

Fred Rogers was one of the most influential children’s programming pioneers of the twentieth century. From the time that “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” took the air in the 1968, he was unafraid to deal with controversial issues that were changing our world in a real and understanding way to his core audience. Many argue that without him, PBS itself would have died on the vine before most of its most powerful programming would have the chance to play their roles in history as well. Morgan Neville, whose “20 Feet from Stardom” wowed audiences in 2013, has decided to take on Rogers’ story for his latest documentary, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”

Running the entirety of Rogers’ life, Neville uses an amazing combination of archive footage, archive and current interviews, and even the words of some of his fellow castmates to tell a story that is nothing short of riveting and engaging. From disheartened to overjoyed, I don’t think there is an emotion I felt during that ninety minutes that I didn’t hit at some point. Whether it was trying to explain what an assassination is in his first week on the air to trying to take his format to a more adult audience with less than stellar results, his resolve to never waiver from his faith or his principles ring as true today as they did in their own time. His compassion for people in general is nothing short of a role model for each and every one of us, especially as he deflected unnecessary criticisms from all sides, at one point even being the federal government.

When I screened “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” at the Dallas International Film Festival, there was a moment about two-thirds of the way through when tissues were passed out amongst the audience, and I was glad they did. This film tugged at my heart strings in a way that have not affected me in quite a bit, and I was not afraid to be there in that moment at that time. I WAS one of those kids who watched “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood” as often as I could in an age that did not have VCRs, DVRs, or any other way to watch the show if I didn’t catch it live, and even today and enamored by it. His proficiency in each and every aspect of his production and the family of people he surrounded himself with in order to make one of the most influential programs for multiple generations is told honestly and beautifully, making this film a must-see any way the masses can get a hold of it.

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