If you are free this Friday evening, August 17th at 5:00 you may want to run down to the Rio Theatre in Vancouver to catch a screening of Moran Neville’s “Won’t You Be My Neighbour”.This is a film that moves the spirit, causes more than a few tears to fall (the good tears we cry when our hearts are touched) and tells the wonderful story of the life and work of Fred Rogers, the beloved children’s entertainer who did so much more than simply entertain children.
Fred Rogers was an ambassador for children’s rights. He promoted their intelligence, their emotions and their sensitivities. Rogers used puppets, songs and play to explore complex social issues such as race, disability, divorce, equality and tragedy. He had enormous respect for children and all that they are. He did not avoid the tough issues such as grief or loneliness and he celebrated the joys of life; family, friendship, compassion, belonging and love.
Fred Rogers was a Presbyterian Minister ordained in 1962. There is one particular scene in the film were Roger’s theology shines through with great clarity. During the 1960’s, racism was at a peak in North America and black people were not allowed to eat with white people nor swim the same public pools. Knowing this, in an episode in 1969, Fred invites the character on his show who plays a black policeman, Officer Clemmons, to come and place his feet in Fred’s wading pool on a hot summer’s day. They wash and cleanse their feet together and when they are done, Fred dries the feet of his friend. Today, we might not think twice about this scene. In the sixties, it was ground-breaking.
Fred Rogers was a disciple. He was devoted to service. It was his life’s work to create an environment for children where their feelings are acknowledged, heard, appreciated, respected and cared for. I saw this film in June and I still play it over and over in my mind. In a world where we are so often disturbed by violence and brutality, this is a beautiful 98 minute film about kindness, compassion and gentleness.
Mr Rogers was much more than an “awe shucks” guy wrapped in cardigans and wearing cozy slippers. Morgan Neville has created a documentary that shows the imprint Fred Rogers made on the hearts and minds of many children and adults over several decades. Rogers looked for and found what was best in all of the children he met throughout his long career. The final word goes to Fred himself from his 2002 Commencement Speech at Dartmouth College in Hanover, New Hampshire.
“Our world hangs like a magnificent jewel in the vastness of space.Everyone of us is part of that jewel-a facet of that jewel. And in the perspective of that infinity, our differences are infinitesimal.. We are intimately related. May we never, ever pretend that we are not.”
The film plays Friday, August 17
Rio Theatre, 1660 East Broadway
Doors 4:30 pm | Movie 5:00 pm
Advance tickets $10 | $12 at the door