The theme for this month – The Audacity of Decency

Theatrical Release

Won’t You Be My Neighbor (2018)

Directed by Morgan Neville (Best of Enemies, 20 Feet From Stardom)
Edited by Jeff Malmberg and Aaron Wickenden.


“(The show, which started in the United States nationwide in 1968 on NET, ran for more than 30 years.) 

“Prior to his TV career, Rogers studied in a seminary and eventually became an ordained Presbyterian minister, and so it’s not surprising when one of his colleagues says in the movie, “There was a noble, spiritual dimension to what he did.” But, at least in terms of the TV show, it was a strictly nondenominational spirituality. He had an ecumenical embrace, and children responded to him because he didn’t judge them. He wanted them to know every one of them had value.

“Rogers first got the idea for the show after seeing all the balloons and Bozos on children’s television and thinking there must be a better and more meaningful way of reaching out to little kids.” Peter Rainer, Christian Science Monitor

“On the other hand, at a time when racial integration was still controversial to some, Rogers included in the show a scene in which he shares a foot bath with the African American Clemmons on a hot day. A solid lesson, gently delivered.

“As an antidote to the frenetic nature of a lot of children’s TV of the day, Rogers preferred a measured pace on his show, and even made judicious use of silence.” Walter Addiego, San Francisco Chronicle

“And while he talked about grouchy monarchs (King Friday XIII) and what to do with “the mad that you feel,” he also spoke about Bobby Kennedy’s assassination and the Challenger explosion. What mattered most to him, as he says in the film, was that children be protected

“In the 15 years since Rogers died (of cancer), the world has become an even scarier place, which is, perhaps, part of what gives “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” a power that goes far beyond nostalgia for tiger puppets and cardigan sweaters.

“Morgan Neville, who won an Oscar for “20 Feet From Stardom,” wisely lets Rogers speak for himself.” Eleanor Ringel Cater, Saporta Report

“What’s so striking about Won’t You Be My Neighbor isn’t really onscreen, though. It’s the effect the film has on the audience, and what that reveals about us.

“As a number of critics have noted, what’s so startling about the movie is the revelation that Mr. Rogers was, as far as anyone seems to be able to tell, basically the person he presented himself to be onscreen. And more importantly, that’s unexpected. Watching the film, it’s hard to believe it’s true. Even after seeing the film, it seems a bit suspect, as if a story of a hidden crime will eventually come to light if we just wait long enough.” Alissa Wilkinson, Vox

Archival films
Ikiru (1952)

Directed by Akira Kurosawa (Seven Samurai, High and Low)
Written by Shinobu Hashimoto and Kurosawa.
Shot by Asakazu Nakai.
Starring: Takashi Shimura, Haruo Tanaka, Nobuo Kaneko, Bokuzen Hidari, Miki Odagiri, Shin’ichi Himori, Minoru Chiaki.

“Watanabe’s family and associates gather to remember him, drinking too much and finally talking too much, trying to unravel the mystery of his death and the behavior that led up to it. And here we see the real heart of the movie, in the way one man’s effort to do the right thing can inspire, or confuse, or anger, or frustrate, those who see it only from the outside, through the lens of their own unexamined lives.

“We who have followed Watanabe on his last journey are now brought forcibly back to the land of the living, to cynicism and gossip. Mentally, we urge the survivors to think differently, to arrive at our conclusions. And that is how Kurosawa achieves his final effect: He makes us not witnesses to Watanabe’s decision, but evangelists for it. I think this is one of the few movies that might actually be able to inspire someone to lead their life a little differently.

“Kurosawa made it in 1952, when he was 42 (and Shimura was only 47). It came right after “Rashomon” (1951) and “The Idiot” (1952), which also starred Shimura. Ahead was his popular classic “The Seven Samurai” (1954) and other samurai films like “The Hidden Fortress” (1960), the film that inspired the characters R2D2 and C3PO in “Star Wars.” Roger Ebert

To Kill a Mockingbird (1962)

Directed by Robert Mulligan (Love With the Proper Stranger, Up the Down Staircase)
Adapted by Horton Foote from the Harper Lee novel.
Shot by Russell Harlan (Witness for the Prosecution, Rio Bravo)
Starring: Gregory Peck, Mary Badham, Phillip Alford, John Megna, Brock Peters,James Anderson and Estelle Evans.

The Academy Award winning screenplay was faithfully adapted by screenwriter Horton Foote from the 1960 novel of the same name by Harper Lee – who had written a semi-autobiographical account of her small-town Southern life (Monroeville, Alabama), her widower father/attorney Amasa Lee, and its setting of racial unrest. [Note: This was Lee’s first and sole novel – and it won the Pulitzer Prize in 1960.] The poor Southern town of deteriorating homes was authentically re-created on a Universal Studios’ set. Released in the early 60s, the timely film reflected the state of deep racial problems and social injustice that existed in the South.” Tim Dirks, AMC


Won’t You Be My Neighbor? is at The Grand Cinema.
Ikiru will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, July 6 in the Center for Spiritual Living (206 N. J St).
To Kill a Mockingbird will screen at 7:15 p.m. on Friday, July 13 in the CSL.

The TFC Discussion Night for these three films is Wednesday, July 18 in the CSL.

One thought on “Producers’ Film Picks for July 2018

  1. “What we choose to emphasize in this complex history will determine our lives. If we see only the worst, it destroys our capacity to do something. If we remember those times and places — and there are so many — where people behaved magnificently, this gives us the energy to act, and at least the possibility of sending this spinning top of a world in a different direction.” Howard Zinn, historian

    Ikiru, To Kill A Mockingbird and Won’t You Be My Neighbor are unified by our month’s theme — The Audacity of Decency. We chose three stories, one distinguished by its documentary truth, that show remarkable acts and figures whose impact through singular visions defied comprehension from those around them.

    In Ikiru, incubated and numbed from 30 years of public sector rubber stamping, Watanabe’s determination to create a publicly demanded park from a hazardous cesspool occurs amidst his resistant bureaucracy peers. They are summarized by the narrator’s observation that “the best way to protect your place in this world is to do nothing at all.” Watanabe is transformed by the looming specter of death and chance occurrences outside of his workplace.

    In To Kill A Mockingbird, the simple courtroom testimony by defendant Tom Robinson — “Looks like she didn’t have nobody to help her. I felt right sorry for her.” — cannot protect him from a Southern community fostered by racist contempt and white supremacy. They choose to kill him instead of allow Robinson’s acts of kindness, amidst the hatred, extend in story form to an appeal court outside of their community.

    In Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, Rogers’ unique vision of generosity endured through decades of public access. The broadcasting medium itself was threatened for removal by a conservative U.S. Congress. Rogers’ vision was challenged by those whom did not understand his message of racial unity, children as humans with valid emotions, and silence as something to cherish. Even Rogers himself began to question whether his deeper message of a prevailing kindness had any place in an increasingly turbulent world.

    Come to our discussion tonight to discuss these three essential films, and how their audacity of decency leaves us in both a state of reflection and potentially motivated to spin this world in a different direction than its current trajectory.

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