Won’t You Be My Neighbor? (2018)

1h 34m / Not Rated / Documentary

Fred Rogers led a singular life. He was a puppeteer. A minister. A musician. An educator. A father, a husband, and a neighbor (and not, despite persistent rumors, a former Navy Seal). He spent 50 years on children’s television beseeching us to love and allow ourselves to be loved. With television as his pulpit, he helped transform the very concept of childhood. He used puppets and play to fearlessly explore the most complicated and controversial issues of the day like race, disability, equality and violent tragedy. He spoke directly to children, and they responded by forging a lifelong bond with him by the millions. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? explores the question of whether or not we have lived up to Fred’s ideal. Are we all good neighbors?

From Academy Award-winning filmmaker Morgan Neville (20 Feet from Stardom), Won’t You Be My Neighbor? takes an intimate look at a man we all feel like we already know. This emotional and moving film takes us beyond the zip-up cardigans and the Land of Make-Believe and into the heart of a creative genius who inspired generations of children with compassion and limitless imagination. Viewers may find themselves flashing back to childhood hours spent in Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood, hearing forgotten songs and touring long-lost factories. Mr. Rogers had the courage and the passionate focus to create a global neighborhood in which everybody is valued exactly as they are, and to use television — a loud and vulgar medium totally unsuitable for calm conversation and supportive emotions — to make it happen. It’s a film Hollywood Reporter calls “a documentary you want to hug.” Bring tissues.

Before every screening, Tampa Theatre will be collecting new and gently used sweaters and sneakers for adults and children to benefit The Spring of Tampa Bay, Metropolitan Ministries, and other local charities who care for our neighbors in need. The Sweater & Sneaker Drive will continue throughout the film’s multi-week run, because as Mr. Rogers said, “We live in a world in which we need to share responsibility. It’s easy to say ‘It’s not my child, not my community, not my world, not my problem.’ Then there are those who see the need and respond. I consider those people my heroes.”