Private Project

Raising Bertie

RAISING BERTIE is the coming-of-age tale of three black youth in rural North Carolina. Filmed over six years, it follows Reginald, David and Davonte as they struggle for an education against all odds and the community they’ve grown up in struggles to survive. This powerful verité film offers a rare in-depth look at the issues facing America’s rural youth, as it challenges us to recognize the value in lives and communities all too often ignored by the mainstream.

  • Margaret Byrne
    American Promise, Slaying Goliath
  • Ian KIbbe
    Typeface, What's Your Calling
  • Margaret Byrne
  • J Cole
    Executive Producer
    Platinum Award-winning hip-hop artist from Fayetteeville, North Carolina
  • Justine Nagan
    Executive Producer
    Executive Director of Kartemquin FIlms, Typeface, Sacred Transformations
  • Gordon Quinn
    Executive Producer
    Founder and Artistic Director of Kartemquin with over 40 films to his credit
  • Jon Stuyvesant
    DP, Co-Producer
    American Promise
  • Leslie Simmer
    Kartemquin's Director of Editing, Homestretch, As Goes Janesville, The War Tapes
  • Project Type:
  • Runtime:
    1 hour 50 minutes
  • Completion Date:
    December 18, 2015
  • Production Budget:
    680,000 USD
  • Country of Origin:
    United States
  • Country of Filming:
    United States
  • Language:
  • Shooting Format:
    HD 1080 24p
  • Aspect Ratio:
  • Film Color:
  • First-time Filmmaker:
  • Student Project:
Director Biography - Margaret Byrne

Margaret Byrne, Director / Producer, has worked on several projects for Rada Film over the past decade including the award-winning doc, American Promise (2012), a thirteen-year project that followed the education of two African American boys from New York City, and Slaying Goliath (2009), a feature documentary about an inner city youth basketball team. Margaret also lived and worked in Lagos, Nigeria, where produced and edited a music documentary series, “MTV Base 100th Live” which launched MTV across Africa in 2005. More recently, she was a Creative Director at Universal Music and directed live concerts and music videos before moving back to her hometown, Chicago, to focus on developing her own film projects. She also works closely with Mary J. Blige’s foundation FAWN (The Foundation for the Advancement of Women Now) to develop content and branding opportunities to help further their work with inner city women. She is the founder of Beti Films.

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Director Statement

I originally came to Bertie County, North Carolina to make a small film project about The Hive, an alternative school for young men. I was only supposed to be there for three days, but I ended up filming for six years. I fell in love with the people. I fell in love with the place, and most especially I saw value in a part of the country that mainstream America tends to ignore.

Stylistically, we filmed from the boys point of view; the audience is living in their world, seeing life through their lens. Raising Bertie weaves these young men’s stories together primarily through verité scenes and some voice over. Shots of them traveling alone down empty country roads become a metaphor for what they are experiencing internally. Serene country scenes juxtaposed with moments of drama define the mood. Beautiful, expansive landscapes are offset by dark claustrophobic interiors, reflecting the character's feelings of being trapped within a community that they take pride in, but struggle to find success within its constraints.

Editing this film has been a delicate balance of transparent storytelling, while still trying to avoid the unnecessary, inherent bleakness and stereotyping of African American men. As Junior says, “I don’t want people to look at us like we’re poor. I don’t want anyone to look at us in a bad way… ever.”

Over the last seven years, we have maintained close, trusting relationships with each family in the film. I love them and their families. I am honored that they trusted me and gave me an unfiltered window into their lives and that they believed what we were doing was important.