Holy moly! I totally forgot to tell you this story, didn't I?
You'll recall that Davy Rothbart invited me to join him, David Newell (aka Mr. McFeely) and Mister Rogers' uber-fan (and subject of the documentary, "Today's Man") Nicky Gottlieb in Pittsburgh in November. Well, the plot thickens.
Well, my buddy Ron emailed me last week, and he CC'd his college dorm mate, "Today's Man" director Lizzie Gottlieb.
Lizzie, meet my friend-made-on-the-internet, singer/songwriter, MTV-News-Online-executive, documentary-about-Mister Rogers-filmmaker, fellow Midwesterner, triathlete, about-to-be-newlywed, all around Renaissance Man, nicest man in NYC, Benjamin Wagner.
I'll tell you what, Mister Rogers is smiling down on this whole connected thing, huh?
Anyway, I ordered Lizzie's documentary just as soon as Davy emailed me about it, and it arrived tonight. I just finished watching it.
It's a terrific film: compassionate, intelligent, and empathic.
Nicky Gottlieb is a young man struggling to leave the comfort and safety of his parents' home and find his place in the world. While he can calculate the square root of any number in the blink of an eye, he has trouble reading the simplest of facial expressions, making social interaction difficult. At the age of 21, he is diagnosed with Asperger's syndrome, a high-functioning form of autism. This loving portrait by his filmmaker sister is both a personal exploration of one family's journey and a broader effort to understand this mysterious disorder.
There's a point in the film when Nicky, who loves television and adores Mister Rogers, says, "The world would be a much crazier place without Mister Rogers." In fact, Lizzie told me she considered calling the doc, "Thank God For Mister Rogers."
The more I've learned about the whole thing, the more it feels fated. The film, as it ends up, premiered at the Nantucket Film Festival -- as Christofer and I hope to.
More than our connections, though, the film moved me because it's well done, and it's done with heart. It's a very personal story, one that sets the bar pretty high on our little project.