AFI Silver features multiple offerings, but Todd Hitchcock, Director of Programming, expects that one film will resonate the most emotionally currently.
That would be “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” that reviewers are describing as an affectionate but incisive look at Fred Rogers. From 1968 to 2001, he hosted “Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood,” one of the longest-running and fondly-remembered children’s television shows.
The documentary by Morgan Neville, an Academy Award winner (for another film), focuses on how the cardigan-clad Rogers, a trained minister, was both radical and gentle.
“People got snifffly even during the trailer,” said Hitchcock, who grew up watching the program as well as “Sesame Street.”
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“The documentary is masterful, he added, combining clips from the shows and interviews with people involved in them.
Surprisingly, some of the topics Fred Rogers discussed were “difficult ones,” such as the assassinations of 1968, and divorce. He also stood up when Congress threatened to cut back funding for PBS, and with his quiet persona, influenced the outcome.
The run of “Won’t You Be My Neighbor?” begins June 15.
Also to open soon at AFI Silver is the 1931 black-and-white feature film “Transatlantic,” a kind of “Grand Hotel” on water and early experiment in multiple storylines.
Like that better-known film, which came out a year later, Transatlantic centers on a thief, amidst the various other characters, each with his or her own drama.
Even old-movie buffs may not be familiar with the director, William K. Howard, and the only actor who remains familiar is Myrna Loy. But those same buffs definitely have heard of the “legendary” (Hitchcock’s description) cinematographer James Wong Howe and art director Gordon Wiles.
The Museum of Modern Art restored the pre-Code movie, and viewers can see it in its original glory – including a chase through the ship’s cavernous engine room – for the first time in 80 years.
AFI is co-presenting “Transatlantic” with the Art Deco Society of Washington, which focuses on preservation of buildings and other aspects of that style. Growing out of the 1925 Paris Expo and dominating almost till the start of World War II, Art Deco design included zig zags and expressive detail. Later, it became more streamlined, incorporating more motion, and design elements such as ship portholes.
Steven Knight, president of the Society, noted “the natural fit” between that design period and the Golden Age of film. The restored AFI building has an Art Deco look.
“Transatlantic” will show on Saturday, June 23, preceded by an illustrated talk by Society member Christian Roden at 5:30 p.m. Music and refreshments round out the evening.
Yet another AFI offering, from June 28 to July 1, is The Color of Conversation Film Series.
“We’ re proud to announce a new partnership with Run&Shoot Filmworks, producers of the annual Martha’s Vineyard African-American Film Festival,” said Hitchcock. “The Festival is dedicated to supporting the advancement of innovative, artistic cinematic works by seasoned filmmakers of color.”
The prom opens with the acclaimed “Mr. Soul!” which premiered in the Tribeca Film Festival. Other highlights include “Blindspotting,” the documentary “Maynard,” and filmmaker Boots Riley’s feature-film debut of “Sorry to Bother You,” with the filmmaker in attendance.
“We continuously look for ways to bring dynamic programming to audiences outside of MVAAF. There is a huge amount of excitement around the films and panels that we have included in the schedule of events. We are so happy to collaborate with AFI Silver; this is the perfect complement to what they have previously presented,” Floyd and Stephanie Rance, Co-Founders of Run&Shoot Filmworks.
AFI Silver is located at 8633 Colesville Road, in Silver Spring. For more information, call 301-495-6700 or visit www.afi.com/silver.