by Francis Friel, The Projectionist
“What we see and hear onscreen is part of who we become.” - Fred Rogers
Every year Sundance throws some stuff out there that makes you mental-note yourself to death with worry, trying to remember all the new features to look out for six months or a year down the line. Inevitably, if you’re like me, you have a list ready and when a title eventually makes its way to Netflix or your local video store you have that A-HA moment and grab it right away, high on your own I Know Everything About Movies kick. But this year Focus Features is going to just about break the planet in half with a film that could threaten to derail all the bad will built up over the last few months or so in Hollywood. Because for every Weinstein and Spacey and Toback that gets blasted across headlines everywhere, there’s been a ghost looking out for all of us. A beam of light that’s about to return to screens and remind everyone that even in these Dark Times, there’s always the possibility of something better.
Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, the new documentary feature from Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom), tells the story of Fred Rogers and his most famous creation, Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood. From the clip below we can already tell that the behind-the-scenes footage Morgan is going to present will alone be worth the ticket price, but it’s the shots of Rogers espousing his simple, direct philosophy to the camera that will be the main draw, obviously.
I watch the video of Fred Rogers addressing the Senate about once a year. It’s one of the purest, well-intentioned speeches from a celebrity you can find anywhere on the internet. And even in the moments we all know from his own series, it’s the method of gently addressing the nature of reality itself that has always kept him close to my heart. Be kind to other people. Own up to your mistakes and don’t repeat them. Like I said, these are Dark Times we’re living in. To release this film now, telling the story of a completely (publicly) apolitical famous person who only ever wanted us to love each other and try to see things from the other person’s side, to find the mercy and forgiveness and acceptance in every situation…it might just be too much for people to take. But this has now become my Most Anticipated Film of 2018.
Premiering at the 2018 Sundance Film Festival and in theatres June 8th.