Raising Bertie | Chicago Reader

Raising Bertie

105 minutes 2016

Director Margaret Byrne started out making a documentary about the Hive, an alternative school in predominantly black Bertie County, North Carolina, but the school ran out of funds and shut down, so she decided to follow three male students as they returned to the public high school. Things are rough for them there: they're all two or three grades behind, dealing with poverty and family dysfunction, and as Byrne tracks their progress over five years, their career prospects in the rural area settle at the level of barbering, landscaping, harvesting, and serving up fast food. Byrne wanted to call attention to the poor education afforded these young men, and her best evidence is her own subjects: one needs his mother to fill out his job applications for him, and another is still playing for the football team as he struggles to graduate at age 21. Near the end of the documentary the Hive reopens as a small community-resource center, which highlights the need for more social services in the boondocks but also reminds you that the original school played its part in leaving these young men unprepared.

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