Director: Morgan Neville
Starring: James Rogers, François Clemmons, Yo-Yo Ma
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is the surprise documentary hit of the year, and it’s easy to see why. It follows the life and legacy of Fred Rogers and his hit children’s TV show, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The documentary digs deep, exploring his childhood, his later life after the show ended, and the cultural impact he left. The film itself is appreciative towards Rogers as a person, but also isn’t afraid to explore thornier subjects—like the fact that he was raised evangelical and was a registered Republican his entire life—with nuance. The film succeeds in creating a warm portrait of a man who worked hard to make sure everyone was treated with respect, and may have needed the show more than his viewers (one tear-jerking scene shows Rogers re-enacting his own insecurities with one of his puppets, Daniel, in an episode of the show). The documentary, much like Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood itself, feels like an act of radical empathy.