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Raising Bertie (2016)

Not Rated | | Documentary | 9 June 2017 (USA)
2:25 | Trailer

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Raising Bertie is a longitudinal documentary feature following three young African American boys over the course of six years as they grow into adulthood in Bertie County, a rural African ... See full summary »


Margaret Byrne
1 nomination. See more awards »





Raising Bertie is a longitudinal documentary feature following three young African American boys over the course of six years as they grow into adulthood in Bertie County, a rural African American-led community in Eastern North Carolina. Through the intimate portrayal of these boys, this powerful vérité film offers a rare in-depth look at the issues facing America's rural youth and the complex relationships between generational poverty, educational equity, and race. The evocative result is an experience that encourages us to recognize the value and complexity in lives all too often ignored. Written by Kartemquin Films

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An intimate portrait of three African American boys coming of age in rural North Carolina




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Release Date:

9 June 2017 (USA) See more »

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Kartemquin Films See more »
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A Noble Effort
10 April 2016 | by nceducator-680-921954See all my reviews

The level of commitment and dedication shown by Margaret Byrne in filming this movie over a period of several years is impressive. The stars are three young men, Reginald, Devonte, and David, of rural Bertie County, North Carolina, and the film follows their struggles with school and life.

When The Hive, the alternative school they attend is threatened with closure, school director and mentor Vivian Saunders steps in to keep it open. (Shame on the school district for not supporting the alternative school.) Vivian's work is rewarded by the lives that are turned around as the result of her skill and devotion.

This is a powerful story of determination. However, technical flaws keep the film from being more than it could be. The viewer is distracted by shaky camera work and uncomfortable close ups. The film could benefit from more editing and a voice over. It was difficult to understand the dialog at times and to keep the characters straight. I understand the importance of verite but the uneven flow distracts from the story and is uncomfortable to watch at times (the fight scene, for example).

An epilogue would be helpful at the end to show where the young men are today. Also, captions shown as dates in the film would make it easier to follow the progression.

Reginald, Devonte, and David appeared at the premiere in Durham, NC on April 9, 2016 and answered questions by the audience, who warmly received the film. These young men are clearly getting their lives together, with Devonte planning to attend East Carolina University. (He might want to consider a major in theater, considering his empathy and strong stage presence). All three young men were poised and engaging during questions from the audience at the Full Frame Documentary Film Festival. An added treat was the presence of Vivian Saunders, who continues to run the Hive.

This doc could be truly great with more post production attention and editing. For example, the addition of a voice over would be helpful, along with a little information placing the film geographically in North Carolina (its distance from the coast for example, and proximity to Merchants Millpond in nearby Gates County, one of the most beautiful state parks in the system).

I hope the film will continue to be shown, as it illustrates the challenges faced by rural NC schools.

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