AFI Docs 2016 Recap with “Raising Bertie”
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— MichonBostonGroup (@MichonBostonGrp) June 14, 2016
AFI Docs presented two screenings of “Raising Bertie” at the AFI Silver in Silver Spring and Landmark E Street Theatre in downtown DC. Both events played to packed audiences. Vivian Saunders, Reginald Askew, David Perry, and Davonte Harrell (who appear in “Raising Bertie”) drove from North Carolina to Washington, DC for the weekend screening events. Ms. Saunders is a mentor to these young men and founder of The Hive, an alternative school (now an after-school program) in Bertie County, in Eastern North Carolina.
“Raising Bertie” offers viewers a respectful and tender insight into the emotional lives of Reginald “Junior” Askew, David “Bud” Perry, and Davonte “Dada” Harrell as they face a precarious coming of age and try to define their identities.
One of the most rewarding experiences of the screenings was connecting with audience members born in Bertie County or nearby. Though their lives are now lived outside Bertie, these attendees expressed their commitment to staying engaged with their hometown having made a connection with the stories of Reginald, David, and Davonte.
Like many rural areas, Bertie County struggles with a dwindling economy, a declining population and a high school graduation rate below the state average. The Perdue chicken processing plant is Bertie’s last major employer, and the 27 prisons that lay within a 100 miles of Bertie cast a long shadow. Bertie County is predominately African American its challenges compounded by generations of economic and educational discrimination and exclusion.
The filmmakers’ have set impact goals around education and shrinking opportunity gaps that will benefit Bertie and other rural communities as well. Engaging and empowering disconnected youth, collaboratives to improve school-to-work transition, and elevating the national conversation about the needs of rural communities are all within reach.
“Raising Bertie” is a co-production of Kartemquin Films, celebrating 50 years of documentary filmmaking this year, and Beti Films. Funding is provided by MacArthur Foundation, Ford Foundation, Brit Doc, Good Pitch, IFP, Chicago Media Project, Southern Documentary Fund, One Economy Corporation, Harper Foundation.