SXSW Film Review: Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Mister Rogers documentary reminds us of the bravery of kindness

Won’t You Be My Neighbor takes the guise of documentary – and of course, in many ways it is. Watching it, you learn all about Fred Rogers and his iconic show Mister Rogers' Neighborhood.

In terms of pure summary, this is a documentary about a children’s TV program and the man behind it. But more importantly it’s also an escape for adults to experience the emotional freedom that Neighborhood gave to children.

“What we see or hear on the screen is who we become,” Rogers says at one point in the doc. It’s why his program always advocated for tenderness. Rogers connected with children through his show, gave them a space to feel scared or angry with the assurance of continual love. Now, director Morgan Neville (20 Feet From Stardom) becomes the translator for adults. With the legacy of Rogers guiding him, Neville creates a film where vulnerability is not a gimmick, where openness is not a bargaining chip.

Rogers died in 2003 – long before Trump or many of the other political issues now pressing in – so the film doesn’t offer much in terms of answers to the contemporary crisis. Still, you’ll walk away from Won’t You Be My Neighbor with more compassion and courage than before.


Won't You Be My Neighbor?

Festival Favorites

A note to readers: Bold and uncensored, The Austin Chronicle has been Austin’s independent news source for almost 40 years, expressing the community’s political and environmental concerns and supporting its active cultural scene. Now more than ever, we need your support to continue supplying Austin with independent, free press. If real news is important to you, please consider making a donation of $5, $10 or whatever you can afford, to help keep our journalism on stands.

Support the Chronicle  

READ MORE
Ten Key Moments in Austin's Year With the Coronavirus
Ten Key Moments in Austin's Year With the Coronavirus
The Plague Year

Beth Sullivan, Dec. 18, 2020

Top 10 Arty Ways 2020 Was the Best Year Ever
Top 10 Arty Ways 2020 Was the Best Year Ever
Barbara Purcell shares art highlights from a year that tested our sanity and humanity

Barbara Purcell, Dec. 18, 2020

More by Katarina Brown
SXSW Panel Recap: <i>The Second Golden Age of Audio: Podcasts</i>
Panel Recap: The Second Golden Age of Audio: Podcasts
After a wave of acquisitions, Spotify chiefs allay fears

March 14, 2019

SXSW Film Review: <i>The River and the Wall</i>
Film Review: The River and the Wall
Award-winning border documentary focuses on nature over politics

March 13, 2019

KEYWORDS FOR THIS POST

SXSW Film 2018, SXSW 2018, SXSW, Mister Rogers' Neighborhood, Won't You Be My Neighbor?, Festival Favorites, Documentary

MORE IN THE ARCHIVES
NEWSLETTERS
One click gets you all the newsletters listed below

Breaking news, arts coverage, and daily events

Can't keep up with happenings around town? We can help.

Austin's queerest news and events

New recipes and food news delivered Mondays

All questions answered (satisfaction not guaranteed)

Information is power. Support the free press, so we can support Austin.   Support the Chronicle