Three Rivers Film Festival Preview: “Butterfly in the Sky”

Year: 2022

Runtime: 87 minutes

Directors: Bradford Thomason, Brett Whitcomb

By Morgan Roberts

For many, “Reading Rainbow” was more than a television program. It was our first form of education that taught us to love books, telling stories, and using our imaginations. “Butterfly in the Sky”is the documentary film that dives into the history of “Reading Rainbow” and the impact the show had on many lives.

As someone who grew up watching “Reading Rainbow,” “Butterfly in the Sky” immediately transported me back to my youth. “Reading Rainbow,” like “Mister Roger’s Neighborhood” and “Sesame Street,” was instrumental in my early education. As someone who was not necessarily a strong reader, the television series at least gave me a way to experience books by having LeVar Burton or guests such as Whoopi Goldberg or James Earl Jones read stories to me. I fondly remember reading the book “Stellaluna” and dragging the book out when it was featured on the show.

In “Butterfly in the Sky,” you are not simply brought down memory lane. You learn about the educational impacts of introducing a show about reading to children. You learn about the countless people who made each episode come together. The researchers, the crew, and the face of the show: Burton. Burton’s work on the show was important for so many people, that even on the TV show “Community,” a character is overwhelmed when he has the opportunity to meet Burton. Burton brought a calming and caring presence to the series. And just by being a Black man on an educational television show, Burton combated many negative stereotypes about people of color, many of which, we still see today in media.

With its quintessential theme song, “Reading Rainbow” has long been a millennial favorite. “Butterfly in the Sky” not only provides a glimpse at the making of the series, but it is a documentary, that by the end of it, feels like a warm, familiar hug.

“Butterfly in the Sky” will be featured at the Three Rivers Film Festival on Sunday, 13 November 2022 at 1:00pm at the Harris Theater in Downtown Pittsburgh. The screening will be followed by a Q&A with “Reading Rainbow” creator and executive producer, Twila Liggett, and subject in the film and chief creative officer of Fred Rogers Productions Ellen Doherty.


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