By Emily Creery
Fred Rogers, the iconic host of “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood,” once said that asking ‘won’t you be my neighbor?’ is an invitation to help people know that they’re loved and capable of loving.
The way that Rogers radiated generosity and inspiration, leaving a lasting impact on all those he encountered, was one of the many reasons behind FilmScene’s and Iowa City’s push to bring him to the local screen via the documentary Won’t You Be My Neighbor?
FilmScene Programming Director Rebecca Fons said in an email to The Daily Iowan that the idea to foster togetherness with one’s neighbor clicked right away.
“We’ve paired different neighborhoods — as nearby as College Green and as far away as Solon — and invited residents to mingle with one another,” Fons said. “We’ve also welcomed them to share something about their neighborhood, like an upcoming event or exciting news, with the audience before the lights go down … We hope that we’ve provided a space for strangers and neighbors to get to know one another better and to learn more about FilmScene.”
The film, a documentary exploring the life, lessons, and legacy of the children’s television host, has been praised by critics for being a balm of kindness and empathy, and Fons agrees.
“We anticipate that audiences will leave the theater with a renewed sense of optimism and hope,” Fons said. “Won’t You Be My Neighbor? presents the story of a kind man and his effort to make the world a better place, which can mean being the host of a television show that touched millions of lives or simply holding the door for someone behind you.”
This endeavor provides a place in which one can enjoy lively conversation, complimentary treats, an opportunity to put a sticker on a map to represent one’s location, and to discover just how much people have to offer one another.
Members of the participating communities will receive a discounted price on tickets with the code “NEIGHBOR.”
Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is now playing in select theaters and will be shown during various times at FilmScene until July 19.