Brent Anthony Renaud (1971–2022)
Brent Anthony Renaud was an award-winning documentary filmmaker and journalist who, along with his brother Craig Renaud, became well known for documentary films about the horrors of war and social strife around the world. In 2005, Brent and Craig Renaud released the ten-part documentary series Off to War: From Rural Arkansas to Iraq, which followed members of the Arkansas National Guard into war (Operation Iraqi Freedom). In 2007, the Renaud brothers co-directed the film Little Rock Central: 50 Years Later, which examined students in Little Rock (Pulaski County) fifty years after the Central High Desegregation Crisis of 1957. They were also co-founders of the Little Rock Film Festival. Renaud became internationally known after his death while covering Russia’s war of aggression against Ukraine—the first American journalist killed while reporting on the war in Ukraine.
Brent Anthony Renaud was born on October 2, 1971, in Memphis, Tennessee, to social worker Georgann Freasier and salesman Louis Renaud. Renaud grew up in Little Rock and was a graduate of Hall High School. In 1994, Renaud graduated from Southern Methodist University (SMU) in Dallas, Texas, where he majored in English literature and minored in sociology. While attending SMU, Renaud took part in its Inter-Community Experience program, where he and other students lived in a Habitat for Humanity home and mentored at-risk children in Garrett Park, at the southern end of Greenville Avenue in Dallas. In 1996, Renaud graduated with a master’s degree in sociology and education from Columbia University’s Teachers College. Renaud stayed in New York, where he began working at the Downtown Community Television Center, an organization that produces documentaries and teaches filmmaking. Renaud was soon joined there by his brother, Craig, and they began working with the organization’s co-founder, Jon Alpert. After the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Renaud began pursuing an interest in making documentaries.
Brent Renaud worked on Jon Alpert’s Afghanistan: From Ground Zero to Ground Zero in 2002, following a twenty-three-year-old Afghan-American woman back to her home in Kandahar, Afghanistan. In 2003, Renaud worked with Alpert again in Bridge to Baghdad and Bridge to Baghdad II. Renaud is credited as producer, editor, co-director, and cinematographer on Dope Sick Love (2005) and the ten-part Discovery Channel documentary series Off to War: From Rural Arkansas to Iraq (2005). Off to War won several awards, beginning with the Golden Gate Award at the San Francisco International Film Festival in 2005. In 2006, the Renaud brothers were nominated by the Directors Guild of America for their work on Off to War and won both the Best Limited Series award from the International Documentary Association and the Carl Spielvogel Award from the Overseas Press Club of America.
The Renaud brothers helped found the Little Rock Film Festival, which ran from 2007 to 2015, as well as 501 Films and the Arkansas Motion Picture Institute.
Between 2006 and 2013, Brent Renaud worked on or appeared in several films and television series, including Taking the Hill (2006), Little Rock Central: 50 Years Later (2007), Dirty Driving: Thundercars of Indiana (2008), Warrior Champions (2009), Vanguard (2011), and American Drug War 2: Cannabis Destiny (2013). In 2010, the Renaud brothers won Best Political Feature at the SINY Film Festival in Staten Island, New York, for Warrior Champions. In 2012, they received the National Edward R. Murrow Award for Best TV Network News Documentary and the first of two Alfred I. DuPont-Columbia University Awards. In 2014, they won a Peabody Award for their eight-part Vice documentary Last Chance High, about Moses Montefiore Academy, a Chicago school for students with emotional disorders that closed in 2016. This work also earned them an award from the CINE Golden Eagle Film and Video Competition and their second Emmy nomination for Outstanding Individual Achievement (their first had come in 2006 for Dope Sick Love). In 2016, the brothers were nominated for One World Media’s Refugee Reporting Award. Their film Shelter was released the same year, and in 2017, they released Meth Storm.
In 2019, Brent Renaud was a Nieman Journalism Fellow at Harvard University and was a visiting distinguished professor for the Center for Ethics in Journalism at the University of Arkansas (UA) in Fayetteville (Washington County).
Renaud was shot and killed by Russian troops at a vehicle checkpoint in Irpin, a suburb of Kyiv, Ukraine, on March 13, 2022. According to brother Craig, Brent was in Ukraine working for MSNBC and the television and film division of Time magazine on a multipart series about refugees called Tipping Point.
Brent Renaud was the first journalist on assignment from an American news organization to be killed while reporting on the war in Ukraine. His body arrived at the Bill and Hillary Clinton National Airport in Little Rock from Ukraine on March 21. Renaud’s funeral service took place on March 26 at Pulaski Heights United Methodist Church in Little Rock. His family established the Brent Renaud Journalism Foundation in his honor to provide scholarships for aspiring journalists. On October 20, 2022, Brent and Craig Renaud were honored at the Arkansas Press Association’s inaugural Arkansas Press Freedom Gala.
For additional information:
Bowden, Bill. “Little Rock Filmmaker Brent Renaud First American Journalist Killed in Ukraine War.” Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 14, 2022. https://www.arkansasonline.com/news/2022/mar/14/little-rock-filmmaker-brent-renaud-first-american/ (accessed October 28, 2022).
“Brent Renaud.” Internet Movie Database. https://www.imdb.com/name/nm1863692/?ref_=rg_mv_close (accessed October 28, 2022).
Junger, Sebastian. “Brent Renaud’s Death Reminds Us of the High Costs of Pursuing the Truth.” Time, March 17, 2022. https://time.com/6158433/brent-renaud-death-journalist-risks/ (accessed October 28, 2022).
“Obituary of Brent Renaud.” Northwest Arkansas Democrat-Gazette, March 20, 2022. https://www.nwaonline.com/obituaries/2022/mar/20/brent-renaud-2022-03-20/ (accessed December 1, 2022).
Traub, Alex. “Brent Renaud, Crusading Filmmaker, Is Killed at 50.” New York Times, March 13, 2022. https://www.nytimes.com/2022/03/13/obituaries/brent-renaud-dead.html (accessed October 28, 2022).
Cody Lynn Berry
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