When the golden age of television was taking off, Fred Rogers noticed a void in programming. There was a lack of television targeted towards children that was not simply throwing pies in peoples faces or mindlessly distracting the viewership. His goal was to create something educational that would foster development and improve the lives of children. His legacy continues to live on to this day by way of his righteous quest to better kids around the world.
Fred’s dedication to childhood development left a lasting imprint on the fabric of society. His ability to take the difficulties of life, from emotional distress to common life lessons, and translate them into a way that children could digest was a daunting task. His ability to find the void in early television programming resulted in Mr. Rogers helping and teaching generations of children that continues to this day.
His wholesome and earnest commitment to children and to caring for one another is a beacon for hope. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? touches on the fact that it may seem anomalous for a truly caring person to go out of their way to help others, but there are many out there. Those that seek to be more destructive or selfish at the cost of others may just have a louder voice.
As a counter to the nihilists and egoists out there, it seems like the presence of individuals like Fred Rogers is proof that people are capable of helping more than just themselves.
Rogers’ philosophy was thoughtfully executed through several aspects of his show. Not only would embrace tough subjects, but would address them in a way that taught children how to be mindful and critical in how they thought in general. Rogers’ was up against the competing fast-paced and distracting programming targeted to children at the time, and still persists today. Instead of trying to keep pace, Rogers’ would take the show in a different direction by taking a minute out of the show to see how long a minute really is or in songs like “I Like to Take My Time”.
In the end, it is his philosophy and his commitment to children and childhood development that will be his legacy.
The philosophy being Rogers’ mission and programming is highlighted brilliantly through the film making. Neville and his team were able to pace and edit the documentary in a way that kept it emotionally consistent. The contemporary interviews and archive interviews and footage are combed through and blended together masterfully.
This film is possibly the best documentary of the year in terms of construction and the message it provides in a turbulent time, to say the least.
Directed by: Morgan Neville
Cinematography: Graham Willoughby
Edited by: Jeff Malmberg & Aaron Wickenden
Music By: Jonathan Kirkscey
Starring: Fred Rogers
Runtime: 1h 32m
Distributed by: Focus Features