Mister Rogers’ Mysterious Decency

The True/False film festival in Columbia offers a preview of the year’s top documentary films before their official release and this year several of us from FP took in films explaining everything from terrorism, cowboy angst, the art world, and the iconic persona of Fred Rogers.  I cannot claim to have much of a critical faculty as a consumer of film. I am like Jerry, of Ben and Jerry’s fame, who describes his lack of taste as accounting for the huge chunks of chocolate and nuts in their ice cream. My appreciation of film often arises from its texture without my necessarily being able to discern the nuance of how and why it impacts me the way it does.  The film that aroused a mysterious depth of emotion was “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” the documentary describing, as one of his sons describes Fred Rogers, the second incarnation of Jesus. Documentary films, at their best, take a slice of life and bring out the inherent beauty, hope, love, or absurdity, of everyday life, and Morgan Neville’s film provides insight to the depth of understanding and love Roger’s was able to convey to a generation of children.  Mister Rogers, patiently answering children’s questions, ultimately replying in person to over a million fan letters, taking time for everyone he comes across, was among the most decent of men. “He was such a warm, moral character,” Neville said after spending more than a year watching Rogers on tape. “He had no agenda other than goodness. I can’t think of any voice that I wanted to hear in this day and age more than his.”  The sheer moral uplift of this film caught me by surprise. Continue reading “Mister Rogers’ Mysterious Decency”