Of all Pittsburgh’s legends, few loom larger in local lore than Mister Rogers.
Rogers had a long life on the small screen, and in the hearts of millions of Americans. In June, he’ll make his long-awaited debut on the big screen in the documentary “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?”
It’s coming from director Morgan Neville, an Academy Award-winner for “20 Feet from Stardom,” and Focus Features, which recently acquired the rights to the film.
The doc goes beyond the zip-up cardigan and past the Neighborhood of Make-Believe into the man and his mind. Rogers’ compassionate wisdom, tolerance and room-for-all empathy was fairly radical for its time, and certainly unique on television. The film intends to put “Mister Rogers’ Neighborhood” in perspective, and make a case for Rogers as not just a benevolent figure, but a creative genius.
Focus Features acquires and produces films for the global market. It’s part of NBCUniversal, one of the world’s largest entertainment and media companies.
Another locally-made movie, “A Wish For Giants,” takes on another kind of legend — and this one’s fictional.
A little girl is dying of inoperable brain cancer. She has one last wish before she dies — to see Bigfoot. A grad student/volunteer for a Make-A-Wish-type organization sees herself in the little girl, and decides to take it upon herself to grant her impossible wish.
“Those are two things I never dreamt of putting together before,” says filmmaker Don Swanson, who directed the film. “On the surface, it seems like two unrelated ideas.
It does work, and works in a way that you kind of get behind and root for. It actually does bring them together and creates a unique story and unique film.”
Shot mostly in Kittanning and Indiana, with some scenes in Cambria and Cameron counties, the film was made for $25,000 with an all-volunteer cast and crew. Without the volunteers, Swanson estimates that it would have cost ten times as much.
“A Wish For Giants” premieres Feb. 17, at the Kovalchick Convention and Athletic Complex in Indiana, PA. The film was based on a novel by Aaron Dunbar of Kittanning.
A portion of the proceeds from the screenings will go to Make-A-Wish of Pennsylvania and West Virginia.