FFF 2018 Day 6–Say You Will and Won’t You Be My Neighbor



Even This Photo of Rogers, Supplied by the  Film, Has an Ominous Look

Attending the FFF every day can be a mixed bag. There are days, like Day 4, where you have three incredible documentaries and you leave the theatre feeling excited; conversations flows and you realize that either you learned something you never knew or you had an experience that simply touched you in all the right places.

Then there are days where you just have to wonder what the selection committee saw that you didn’t.

And, of course, there are days in between. Today was one of those days. Mrs. LanceAround and I saw two films. Both films were good. (Yes, we’ve seen films at the FFF that are bad, but not today.) And yet, even though the films we saw were good, we left the festival feeling unsatisfied. Maybe it’s because our previous day was so good today couldn’t help but be a let down. Or maybe it’s because the films were good, but not great. Of course, it could be that the films we saw just weren’t a match for where we are in our lives. Certainly members of the audience had lots of compliments and good things to say about today’s films. Mrs. LanceAround and I just weren’t feeling it.

Say You Will
This poignant, semi-autobiographical film by writer/director Nick Naveda, was a competent and engaging coming of age movie about two teenagers dealing with traumatic pasts and uncertain futures during the summer after their senior year of high school.

Nick and his two producers, Nancy Taylor and Taylor Grabowsky, were in the audience and held a Q&A after the movie. They revealed that the entire movie was shot in just under two weeks. While it is a typical indie film that might not garnish mass appeal, it displays a lot of depth and passion that point to a bright future for the filmmakers.

Perhaps the highlight of the movie was the performance of Katherine Hughes who played the female lead. Her ability to convey the depth of her character and her charismatic struggles with the relationships her character traverses is a performance worthy of attention. Sam Trammell as the male protagonist’s new found father figure also did a superb job.

Too many movie goers who only see the latest blockbuster at the local cinema don’t have a full appreciation for how someone goes from a youngster who dreams of making great movies to the writer and/or director of the latest hit. This movie gives a great feel for what’s in between. It a raw and honest film that demonstrates a lot of talent. Don’t be surprised if your local theatre or the Academy some day heaps its accolades on Nick Naveda. And when they do, seek out this film and see where he started and just how much he grows as he pursues his craft.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor
How can a detailed documentary about Mr. Rogers possibly make you feel so sad and disappointed?

In our humble opinion, Fred Rogers is one of the greatest American heroes who ever lived. If congress would pass a bill designating a new national monument and declaring his birthday a new national holiday we would be first in line to support it. When television was in its infancy and Saturday morning cartoon shows featured clowns and characters engaging in all kinds of unrealistic slapstick and moments of violence, Fred Rogers decided to create a children’s show that actually spoke to and respected children as the young humans they are. He didn’t talk down to children, he spoke right at their level; often crouching or sitting in a way that they could see him eye to eye.

What’s more, he did not hesitate to take on any topic a child might encounter. When Bobby Kennedy was shot, he did a show where he taught children what the word “assassinate” meant and why so many people were saying it. When the Challenger spacecraft exploded, he did a show talking about sad feelings. He directly spoke about divorce, death, pain and multiple other topics that most children’s shows would not have the courage to touch with a ten foot pole.

In all of his episodes, his central message to children never wavered–Every child is unique, special, capable of loving and worthy of love. According to everyone who knew him best, his persona off screen was no different than who you saw on his signature show which ran for over 30 years, Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood.

While this sprawling documentary introduces us to many people who worked with Fred and shows clips of him from his childhood up to his memorial service in 2003, the movie left us thinking that we learned a lot about Mr. Rogers despite how the film was structured.

To me, this was encapsulated near the end of the movie when they showed a brief scene from his memorial service. After a few seconds inside, the documentarian made the choice to go outside and spent several minutes covering a misguided church group that was protesting his service with heinous signs such as “God hates fags.” (For the record, all his friends in the documentary make it clear that Fred Rogers was not gay.) While the filmmaker makes the valid point that Fred would have been appalled that the children of the protesting group were forced to march with such signs, from our perspective, it took too much of the focus away from the memorial service and gave it to these misguided fanatics who really do not deserve such publicity. This, in a nutshell, appeared to be a major flaw that ran throughout this documentary.

There were several points during this movie that brought us to tears, which was a good thing. But once the movie was over, both Mrs. LanceAround and I felt depressed and discouraged. We both had headaches. The drive home, which is normally filled with lively conversation about the movies we had just seen, was a dull silence.

Fred Rogers deserves much better.

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