NPR logo 'Mr. Happy Man': Johnny Barnes Is The Kindness Of Strangers

'Mr. Happy Man': Johnny Barnes Is The Kindness Of Strangers

At Silverdocs last summer, I saw a number of feature-length documentaries that have gotten higher profiles since then: Buck, Project Nim, and Being Elmo among them. But I also saw several programs' worth of short films, most of which are much harder to find.

One of my favorites was Matt Morris' Mr. Happy Man, which is about a man named Johnny Barnes who spends four hours every morning greeting commuters from a traffic roundabout in Bermuda. He has become part of their morning routine, and Morris does a lovely job in a short time of teasing out the stories that help you understand that. (The woman who talks about being in labor is my favorite.)

This is the kind of story that really is best told in a short documentary — you could write about Johnny Barnes and undoubtedly come up with something very evocative (in fact, I'm sure people have), but it's wonderful to actually watch Barnes do his thing, because the sincerity with which he expresses himself has to really be seen, or it could sound rote. And whatever it is, it is not rote.

And now, the film is available for you to watch. So give it a look; it is perfect for a Monday morning.