Au­then­tic look at young men at risk

Los Angeles Times - - AT THE MOVIES: REVIEWS - — Kim­ber My­ers

Mar­garet Byrne turns in an im­pres­sive di­rec­to­rial de­but with “Rais­ing Ber­tie.” The doc­u­men­tary spends six years with three young black men liv­ing in ru­ral Ber­tie County, North Carolina, fo­cus­ing on a pop­u­la­tion that so rarely gets the spot­light.

The film al­ter­nates be­tween tri­umph and tragedy, but there’s never a mo­ment that doesn’t feel in­ti­mate and au­then­tic in its 96-minute run­ning time.

Af­ter strug­gling in tra­di­tional schools, Regi­nald “Ju­nior” Askew, David “Bud” Perry and Davonte “Dada” Har­rell are de­vel­op­ing at the Hive, an al­ter­na­tive school. Ber­tie County is 80% black with 27 pris­ons within a 100mile ra­dius. The specter of prison hangs over these young men’s lives. The Hive of­fers a dif­fer­ent op­tion, but when the pro­gram loses fund­ing, Ju­nior, Bud and Dada have to see if they can con­tinue else­where what they started learn­ing there.

“Rais­ing Ber­tie” is lyri­cal at times and en­tirely earth­bound in others, fea­tur­ing cin­e­matog­ra­phy of the re­gion that shows its nat­u­ral beauty as well as the dan­gers of liv­ing in the com­mu­nity. Byrne’s vérité ap­proach never judges her sub­jects; there’s no voice-over com­men­tary, but it’s hard not to root for these three men to find suc­cess against the odds.

“Rais­ing Ber­tie” never makes an ex­plicit ar­gu­ment for ed­u­ca­tion, eco­nomic or jus­tice re­form, though it’s dif­fi­cult to watch with­out ques­tion­ing how Ju­nior, Bud and Dada’s lives might be dif­fer­ent if more op­por­tu­ni­ties were in reach. “Rais­ing Ber­tie.” Not rated. Run­ning time: 1 hour, 36 min­utes. Play­ing: Laemmle Mu­sic Hall, Bev­erly Hills.

Mar­garet Byrne Beti Films

DAVID “BUD” PERRY is one of the three young men in the doc­u­men­tary try­ing to find their way.

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