It’s Easy to Forget the Remarkable, Good People Among Us

Four Recent Documentaries Remind Us There is Reason for Hope and Celebration


Lights at the End of the Tunnel

More days than not, we see and read a lot that leaves us discouraged. Our fellow human beings leave a lot to be desired, it would seem (present company excluded, of course…). But that is only part of the story. It is a good and healthy thing to be reminded that there are near angels among us.

Four documentaries have come out recently that do a splendid job of reminding us of that fact. I have seen two of them. Both were entertaining and inspiring. The other two I have yet to see but will in due course. I have heard enough about the other two from sources I trust to know that these two are also must-see films. First, the two I have seen.

Two That are Terrific

Notorious RBG is the much-celebrated film about Ruth Bader Ginsburg. It was fun to watch the audience get caught up in this remarkable life. We are reminded of the giant contributions she made long before she joined the Supreme Court. To call her a national treasure would be an understatement. Whether you agree with her on issues or not, I dare you to not come out of watching this documentary impressed with a great mind and a determined soul. It is a great story that continues today.

Ask Dr. Ruth is the delightful and thoughtful story of Dr. Ruth Westheimer. Dr. Ruth remains America’s favorite sex therapist. The film is not just about her career, but also about her life as a child survivor of the holocaust, and more. It does a very fine job of showing how she became the person we all know. Four feet seven inches never packed in so much determination, insight, and humanity.She still makes appearances, teaches, publishes. She does it all today at a pace that would kill the average person half her age. Dr. Ruth is as active today at 90+ as she ever was. She probably has done more for America’s mental and sexual health than anyone alive, now or in the past. We owe her a lot. Go see her film; you will love it.

Between Ask Dr. Ruth and Notorious RBG, I am beginning to think that the key to greatness is being a diminutive, older woman.

Two That I am Betting On

The two I have not yet seen seem sure bets. They are Won’t You Be My Neighbor, the Fred Rogers story, and Amazing Grace, the Aretha Franklin film shot in 1972 but not shown until now.

Won’t You Be My Neighbor tells how Fred Rogers embodied so much of what is or could be good in the world. In his gentle manner, he broke new ground and modeled good behavior. Adults as well as children learned from him. He raised issues that no other children’s program could even approach. He made children growing up in the electronic jungle of TV and the internet feel safe. This was a genuine human being that called upon our better angels. He made life better for a lot of people.

Amazing Grace centers on Aretha Franklin’s early years as a gospel singer. The performances and audience reactions in this film are spell binding. No one ever  “just listened” to Aretha. You got transported. Whether it was in church, at a presidential inauguration, or the best ever rendition of Think (in the Blues Brothers movie, she was the queen. This was the power of music in the flesh. I feel sorry for anyone who has not heard her sing. I expect this film will remind us all that we are unlikely to see – or hear – her likes again.

Do Yourself a Favor

Depending on where you are, one or more of these films may be showing now, likely in a second run or arts theater. They will be available on line in some form before long. Go find them. Do so as soon as you can. You will have invested your time well in watching them. Oh, and you will leave all four feeling better about yourself and the world.

     Bill Clontz

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3 replies to It’s Easy to Forget the Remarkable, Good People Among Us

  1. Amazing Grace doesn’t really focus on Aretha Franklin’s career. It’s a film of a concert that took place over two nights. It is the movie version of the remarkable gospel album of the same name from 1972. It was professionally filmed that night decades ago but never turned into a movie until now. Do not miss it.

    I couldn’t agree more about the importance of focusing on the remarkable lives of these “good” people.

  2. Thank you for your info keeping us informed about our legal system and those that help shape it. Sex and sex research always interesting, and Dr. Ruth is fun to watch. Netflix has a series on Masters and Johnson that is a representation of them with writers’ liberties which aren’t all factual. I’ve seen the Mr. Rogers film; he’s another great role model. There is an Aretha Franklin section in the documentary Muscle Shoals. Appreciate your diversity of subjects that impact our lives. (Ruth is my daughter’s name.)

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