Won’t You Be My Neighbor?, a documentary about the beloved children’s entertainer Mr. Rogers, was met with nearly universal acclaim when it was released last June. Directed by Morgan Neville, the film told the story of Fred Rogers’ life and career, most notably through his long-running TV series Mr. Rogers’ Neighborhood. The film’s conclusion was that Rogers had no particular secrets or dark side and was, in fact, exactly what he appeared to be in his public persona.
The film was critically lauded, with a Rotten Tomatoes score of 98, and earned $22.8 million at the domestic box office, making it the highest-grossing documentary of 2018 by a significant margin, per The Numbers.
Neville’s film looked like a lock for a Best Documentary Oscar nod, and possibly even the favorite. But when the Academy announced its nominations on Tuesday morning, Won’t You Be My Neighbor? was left off the list.
The documentary nominees are Free Solo, Hale County This Morning, This Evening, Minding the Gap, Of Fathers and Sons, and RBG. Also snubbed in the category were the much-acclaimed Three Identical Strangers as well as Michael Moore’s latest film, Fahrenheit 11/9. Won’t You Be My Neighbor? had made the 15-film Documentary Shortlist, which was released in mid-December, per Indiewire.
It was widely considered a very strong year for documentaries, with a wide variety of entities – Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Amazon, and CNN, in addition to many traditional studios and distributors- investing in nonfiction films. All of the five nominees were primarily cinematic releases, and none were released by Netflix, although Minding the Gap was widely watched on Hulu, and RBG aired on CNN following its theatrical run.
It’s not known exactly why the film did not get nominated, and because the Oscar ballots remain a secret forever, we’ll never know how close it came to an Oscar nod. It is known that the documentary category has been beset by problems for years, which never seem to quite get corrected despite multiple efforts at reforming the rules.
However, all is not lost for movie fans who love Mr. Rogers. That’s because another movie about the TV legend, a feature film starring Tom Hanks as Rogers, now titled A Beautiful Day in the Neighborhood, is currently in production with an expected release date in October, per CNN. The film, directed by Marielle Heller, will follow the friendship between Rogers and journalist Tom Junod that began when Junod profiled Rogers for a magazine.