Runtime: 87 minutes
Directors: Bradford Thomason, Brett Whitcomb
By Joan Amenn
In this troubled world, we should welcome the comfort of nostalgia when we get the chance. Last year, “Street Gang: How We Got to Sesame Street” (2021) was a highlight of film festival season (my review here: https://intheirownleague.com/2021/04/13/siff-2021-review-street-gang-how-we-got-to-sesame-street/) and this year we are treated to “Butterfly in the Sky” (2022). The Story of “Reading Rainbow” is told in this sincere and slightly quirky documentary, much like how the series itself was.
It’s probably not often remembered, but PBS was kind of an experimental television network in that it received funding from the government and contributions, individual and corporate. Experimenting on children sounds alarming now, but these innovations brought us “Sesame Street”, “The Electric Company” and “Reading Rainbow”. The latter focused on teaching kids to love books since the two former programs were assumed to be directed at younger audiences who would learn to read from their programming.
The Story of “Reading Rainbow” is told in this sincere and slightly quirky documentary, much like how the series itself was.
This was all well and good, but it took many people to bring “Reading Rainbow” to life. “Butterfly in the Sky” does a great job in introducing us to all the talented and dedicated people behind the scenes who worked for over two decades to inspire kids to open a book. Of course, the main attraction of “Butterfly” is host LeVar Burton who seems as gentle, kind and devoted to kids as you grew up hoping he really was. There are comparisons made to the late Fred Rodgers and certainly, Mr. Burton is also remembered as playing Geordi LaForge in
“Star Trek: The Next Generation, which makes a fun cameo in the film.
If you find yourself needing a little escape from the stress that seems to be endless these days, check out “Butterfly in the Sky” and the beautifully diverse young people who talk about their favorite books in takes from the series. You don’t have to take my word for it, but you might just find you feel better.