A documentary about the children’s show, Mr. Roger’s Neighborhood, and its host, Fred Rogers.
This documentary is something I want to push to everyone. It’s more than just a film; it’s almost a spiritual experience. I can’t say that I’ve had this much emotional impact from a film in a long time. The life, lessons, and thoughts of the late Fred Rogers are incredibly inspiring, and you walk out of the film wishing for a better world. I went to go see this with two of my friends, and all of us were crying by the end of the film.
The movie is a very straightforward documentary about Fred Roger’s life. It starts when Fred is just exiting seminary school. When he was home on a break, he ended up watching a few television programs, and deciding that he didn’t like the projects that were being produced for children. So, in lieu of becoming a pastor, Fred decided that he would start to make shows for children. The program was small and the sets were all built on a meager budget. Rogers wrote the scripts, composed the songs, and did the hand puppets for the imagination segments of his program. In each of his broadcasts, he would talk about different issues, sometimes they would be very topical or even political, and other times they would tackle tough issues like death or divorce. We watch his rise to fame through his program, and fighting for funding for public broadcasting.
Where this film succeeds the most is in showing Fred Roger’s vision for what all children should know about themselves: that they deserve love and they are loved by people in the world; that there is good all around, even when it seems that there is so much darkness; that even when it seems like you might be a mistake, you can know you aren’t. There are so many great values that Fred Roger’s tired to instill into children through his program, and in watching this documentary it becomes incredibly apparent how unique Mr. Rogers really was.
There’s a recurring theme of Fred Roger’s essentially being Daniel Striped Tiger, one of the puppets in the Make-Believe world. As we saw Fred act out his fears through Daniel, we see his way of cutting right to the heart of everybody’s own greatest fears and addressing them in a way that puts one at ease. This whole part was incredibly powerful for me.
I really don’t want to talk too much more about this film (it’s too good to spoil) other than to urge you to see it, if not in theaters then at least when it arrives on Netflix. For me, this was at least as emotionally powerful as last year’s “Last Men in Aleppo”. I really wouldn’t be surprised if this takes home Best Documentary this year, and honestly, I’m hoping for it.
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