Mr. Rogers and “Radical Kindness”

Something I learned this week at Sundance: 

Kindness is radical – empathy is radical – tolerance (towards those in the other tribe) is radical. 

Even Neville, director of the beloved Sundance hit from a year ago, the Fred Rogers biopic, “Won’t You Be My Neighbor,” thinks documentary can model these counterintuitively radical actions. 

“A debate I’ve had with my documentary peers,” Neville said, “is who do we make films for? Do we make films to make each other feel good, pat each other on the back, preach to the converted, or argue with the converted? This was an opportunity to make a film to reach all kinds of people. Mr. Rogers was a unique cultural figure; he has no cultural attachments. When you watched him, you didn’t know what a Republican or Democrat was. It speaks to the fundamental ways we speak to each other. If we can’t agree about Mr. Rogers, then we are really screwed.”

“I wanted to make a film to remind people about the value of radical kindness,” he said. “Fred’s message, when I distill it, he talked about grace. It’s this idea that kindness is not a naive notion like believing in unicorns and rainbows or something. It’s like oxygen: It is vital, and needs to be nurtured.”

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