2018 Sundance Docs in Focus: WON’T YOU BE MY NEIGHBOR?

Courtesy of Sundance Institute | photo by Jim Judkis

Morgan Neville explores the impact of the beloved children’s television show host on generations of viewers.

Festival Section:
Documentary Premieres

Sundance Program Description:

With his gentle voice and heartfelt words of wisdom, Fred Rogers served as a compassionate surrogate father for generations of American children who tuned in to public television. He believed in love as the essential ingredient in life and was able to assist kids through difficult situations armed merely with handmade puppets suggesting tolerance and acceptance. An ordained Presbyterian minister, Mr Rogers made speaking directly and openly to children his life’s work, both on and off his long-running show. He was at the forefront of a movement devoted to meeting the specific needs of children and was considered a radical back then for saying, “I like you just the way you are.”

Animated sequences are peppered between archival footage of MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD and interviews with Fred Rogers’ family, friends, and colleagues. Examining Rogers’ legacy, Academy Award–winning director Morgan Neville (20 FEET FROM STARDOM) offers a deliberate and beautiful tribute to an authentic human being and provides a much-needed salve for these often-fraught times.

Some Background:

  • Morgan Neville
    Past Sundance docs:

    ABSTRACT: THE ART OF DESIGN (2017, director/executive producer)
    CHELSEA DOES (2016, executive producer)
    BEST OF ENEMIES (2015)
    20 FEET FROM STARDOM (2013)
    TROUBADOURS (2011)

    In addition to his Oscar, Neville is an Emmy, Grammy, and Independent Spirit award-winning filmmaker. He participated in the Sundance Institute’s Catalyst Forum with this project.


  • Caryn Capotosto
    Past Sundance docs:

    ABSTRACT: THE ART OF DESIGN (supervising producer)
    CHELSEA DOES (supervising producer)
    BEST OF ENEMIES (co-producer)
    20 FEET FROM STARDOM (associate producer)

    Caryn Capotosto is head of productions for Neville’s Tremolo Productions.

  • Nicholas Ma

    Ma is the son of Yo-Yo Ma. He appeared in Neville’s documentary THE MUSIC OF STRANGERS: YO YO MA & THE SILK ROAD ENSEMBLE and in an episode of MISTER ROGERS’ NEIGHBORHOOD. This marks his first producing credit.

Associate Producer:

  • Emma Baiada
    Past Sundance docs:

    ABSTRACT: THE ART OF DESIGN (associate producer)

    Baiada is part of Tremolo Productions, where, in addition to producing, she serves as Neville’s assistant.

Executive Producers:

  • Dan Cogan and Geralyn Dreyfous
    Combined recent past Sundance docs:

    BENDING THE ARC (2017)
    DINA (2017)
    ICARUS (2017)
    STEP (2017)
    TROPHY (2017)
    UNREST (2017)
    AUDRIE & DAISY (2016)
    NUTS! (2016)

    Impact Films’ Co-Founder/Executive Director Cogan is also an executive producer of several fellow 2018 Sundance titles: World Cinema Documentary Competition titles OF FATHERS AND SONS and OUR NEW PRESIDENT, US Documentary Competition title BISBEE ’17, US Dramatic Competition title THE TALE, and Premieres title THE LONG DUMB ROAD, as well as co-executive producer of US Dramatic Competition title NANCY.

    Co-Founder of both Impact Partners and Gamechanger Films, Dreyfous also executive produced 2018 Next documentary 306 HOLLYWOOD and Documentary Premieres title GENERATION WEALTH, as well as OUR NEW PRESIDENT, BISBEE ’17, OF FATHERS AND SONS, THE TALE, and THE LONG DUMB ROAD, and co-executive produced NANCY.

  • Regina Scully
    Past recent Sundance docs:

    DOLORES (2017)
    NEWTOWN (2016)
    RESILIENCE (2016)
    UNDER THE GUN (2016)

    The Artemis Rising Foundation philanthropist is also an executive producer for GENERATION WEALTH, BISBEE ’17, and 306 HOLLYWOOD, and a producer for THE TALE.

  • David J Cornfield and Linda A Cornfield
    Past Sundance docs:

    CHASING CORAL (2017)
    CHASING ICE (2012)

    The Cornfields are philanthropists and environmentalists supporting projects that offer innovative, pragmatic, and sustainable solutions to complex current problems. They also serve as executive producers on 2018 Sundance US Documentary Competition title INVENTING TOMORROW and on Documentary Premieres title AKICITA: THE BATTLE OF STANDING ROCK.

  • David Stone

    Stone is also an executive producer of 2018 Sundance Next title NIGHT COMES ON.

  • David Boies III

    Boies is also an executive producer of NIGHT COMES ON. He is an attorney, and the son of David Boies, who was featured in the 2014 Sundance award-winning THE CASE AGAINST 8.

  • Rick Rosenthal and Nancy Stephens
    Past Sundance docs:


    Stephens is also a co-executive producer of 2018 Sundance US Doc Competition title THE DEVIL WE KNOW. Rosenthal and Stephens have also executive produced previous Sundance narrative features, including MEAN CREEK (2004), AFTERNOON DELIGHT (2013), and FIRST GIRL I LOVED (2016).

  • John Boccardo and Derek Esplin

    This and THE DEVIL WE KNOW are the first Sundance credits for the Palm Springs-based arts patrons and art collectors. Boccardo, an architect, also is an associate producer of NIGHT COMES ON, and most recently produced Jeffrey Schwarz’s documentary THE FABULOUS ALLAN CARR.

  • Andrea van Beuren
    Past Sundance docs:

    ALIVE INSIDE (2014, Audience Award winner)

    van Beuren also executive produced THE DEVIL WE KNOW and INVENTING TOMORROW. She is also a founder and artistic director of newportFILM.

  • Jenifer Westphal
    Past Sundance docs:

    SEMBENE! (2015)

    Wavelength Productions’ Westphal is also an executive producer for INVENTING TOMORROW and World Cinema Doc Competition title THIS IS HOME and an associate producer for NIGHT COMES ON. Her philanthropic work includes support for organizations involved with alternative education.

Co-Executive Producers:

  • Nion McEvoy and Leslie Berriman
    Past Sundance docs:

    CHASING CORAL (associate producer)
    UNREST (co-producer)

    McEvoy is the chairman and CEO of publishing giant the McEvoy Group, while his partner Berriman is executive editor at textbook publisher Pearson Education. Their philanthropic work encompasses the world of art, film, photography, and music, including the Smithsonian, SFMoMA, and SFJAZZ. They are also co-executive producers of INVENTING TOMORROW.

  • Jenny Raskin
    Recent past Sundance docs:

    DINA (executive producer)
    STEP (executive producer)
    NOTES ON BLINDNESS (co-producer/co-executive producer)

    Impact VP Raskin also executive produced BISBEE ’17, OF FATHERS AND SONS, and OUR NEW PRESIDENT.


  • Jeff Malmberg
    Past Sundance docs:

    RICH HILL (2014, editorial consultant)

    Malmberg is the filmmaker behind SPETTACOLO and MARWENCOL. He also cut Sundance fiction short alum BROADCAST 23 (2005).

  • Aaron Wickenden
    Past Sundance docs:

    REEL PARADISE (2005, associate producer/additional editor)

    Wickenden also cut 2018 title GENERATION WEALTH.

Why You Should Watch:
Neville perfectly captures Rogers’ genuine kindness and love in this often surprisingly moving portrait that will make even the most cynical and jaded viewers nostalgic to return to the Neighborhood of Make-Believe.

More Info:
Sundance’s Meet the Artist

For Sundance screening dates and times, click the film title in the first paragraph.

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Filed under Documentary, Film, Film Festivals, Recommendations, Sundance

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