The story of acclaimed artist Beverly McIver and her promise to take her sister Renee (who is mentally disabled) when their mother dies — a promise that comes due just as Beverly’s career is taking off.
“In a notable fusion of subject and film, the same themes that fuel the artist’s distinguished body of work—race, class, family, disability—propel this cinematic portrait. Both are a testament to the transformative power of art. ” — Full Frame Film Festival
2011, 82 min.
Produced in association with HBO Documentary Films
“McIver is a pure, effervescent delight!” – Slant Magazine
“Touching and very personal.”
– New York Times
“Fascinating… Takes you into territories that you might not have visited before. Deeply moving.” – About.com
“Extraordinary.” – Blackfilm.com
“The latest documentary from filmmakers Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan again proves the couple’s uncanny ability to mine a situation for endless nuances of behavior and experience.”
– Ty Burr, Boston Globe
“Raising Renee will touch many cords in viewers. It not only speaks to disabilities and care giving but also racism, poverty and the cultural generational shift in families today.”
REVIEWS – click to expand
“Touching and very personal.” – Neil Genzlinger – The New York Times
“Fascinating. Takes you into territories that you might not have visited before. Deeply moving.” – Jennifer Merin – About.com
“The latest documentary from filmmakers Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan again proves the couple’s uncanny ability to mine a situation for endless nuances of behavior and experience.” – Ty Burr – Boston Globe
“Raising Renee will touch many cords in viewers. It not only speaks to disabilities and care giving but also racism, poverty and the cultural generational shift in families today.” – Disaboom
“Powerful. An effective portrait of both the artistic process and family relationships. Highly recommended!” ☆ ☆ ☆ 1/2 – Video Librarian
“McIver is a pure, effervescent delight!” – Slant Magazine
“The film lays bare Beverly’s mixed emotions, showing the transforming effect the situation had on both sisters. Touches upon such diverse themes as artistic endeavors, family, race, and disability, ultimately showing that family bonds run deep and have the power to change people in ways beyond imagination.” – Booklist
“An incredibly honest and intimate portrait of two sisters vying for their own independence, whether they know it or not. From the very beginning, the film grips you.” – Melissa Hanson – Movie Buzzers
“Extraordinary!” – Wilson Morales – Blackfilm.com
“In a notable fusion of subject and film, the same themes that fuel the artist’s distinguished body of work—race, class, family, disability—propel this cinematic portrait. Both are a testament to the transformative power of art. ” – Full Frame Film Festival
“Patient and graceful. Scenes range from the monumental to the mundane. Beverly assumes the role of caretaker with a mix of love, frustration, honesty, lonliness and vigor.” – Sarah Kricheff – Artinfo.com
“A powerful new documentary.” – Noah Wunsch – New York Press
“At once intimate and detached, observational and interactive, these relationships [between Bevery, Renee and the filmmakers] turn into a series of questions in the film, concerning the ways portraits can reveal and also reframe artists and subjects.” – Cynthia Fuchs – Popmatters.com
“A compelling portrait of the difficulties and pleasures of siblings, one of whom is mentally disabled.” – Tarice Gray – The Defenders Online
“Simply an incredible film. Subject, cinematography, story, editing and pace are superb. Ascher and Jordan have developed a sophisticated shooting approach and masterful editing strategy. The film tells a compelling story that is a testament to the importance — and drama — of daily life. This is truly documentary filmmaking at its finest.” – Tom Debiaso – Minneapolis Film Festival, Professor, former Dean, Minneapolis College of Art and Design
ON-AIR and PRINT INTERVIEWS
New York Times – feature piece on the film
NPR – THE TAKEAWAY
THE CALLIE CROSSLEY SHOW
KXLU – CENTERSTAGE with MARK GORDON
Q104.3 – SUNDAYS WITH SHELLI
“The Week Ahead” and “What’s on Today”
The New York Times
New York Post
New York Observer
Stage and Screen
South Coast Today
Sibling Leadership Network
Tiny Mix Tapes
AVRO Netherlands broadcast
SVT Sweden broadcast
Knowledge Canada broadcast
Metropolitan Museum of Art NYC
San Diego Museum of Art
Mint Museum of Art, Charlotte, NC
Minneapolis Film Festival
Focus Film Festival
North Carolina Central University
Boulder Museum of Contemporary Art
Rocky Mountain Women’s Film Festival
School for Visual Arts – NYC
North Carolina Museum of Art
Arizona State University
Syracuse Film Festival – Winner, Best Documentary
University at Albany
Woods Hole Film Festival
Independent Film Festival Boston – Winner, Audience Award
Full Frame Film Festival
RAISING RENEE began with an offhand promise. In 2003, Jeannie was a fellow at the Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study, working on our film, SO MUCH SO FAST. In the next studio was Beverly McIver, working on a set of paintings about her life. They developed a friendship and Beverly talked about the promise she’d casually made her mother Ethel that she’d take care of her older sister Renee, who is intellectually disabled, if anything happened to Ethel. She was just starting to grasp what that might mean and pleaded jokingly for advice on how to get out of it.
We were fascinated by Beverly, her talent as a painter, her instinctive storytelling—and the idea of her promise. Ethel, a maid in Greensboro, North Carolina who had cared for Renee for 43 years, was strong and healthy and no one had any idea of how the story would play out, but we started filming a few scenes while we worked on other projects.
Six years later, the result is RAISING RENEE, a feature documentary that captures the McIver family’s saga of reinventing itself. The film is the third in our trilogy about remarkable families which includes the Oscar-nominated TROUBLESOME CREEK: A MIDWESTERN (about the Jordan family, threatened with the loss of their Iowa farm) and SO MUCH SO FAST (Sundance selection and Frontline feature about the Heywood family, threatened with the loss of their son to Lou Gehrig’s disease). All three films begin at a moment of crisis and take a longitudinal approach to uncover meanings that are only visible by filming over years, through an intimacy with our subjects forged by time.
We approached each of these films with an eye toward plot and the inherent drama of everyday life. At first glance the storyline may seem deceptively straightforward. But embedded in it is an exploration of family relations, race and class in America, and intellectual disability. Audiences sometimes approach these issues with clichéd assumptions —assumptions we seek to upend with the complexity of actual life. Beverly’s gift to her sister can be seen as heroic, but the film is just as interested in the conflicted feelings that come with that gift, which gets closer to the true nature of heroism.
RAISING RENEE is in part about the relationship of art-making and lived experience. Audiences see events as filmed by our camera and as interpreted in Beverly’s art, giving them a privileged position to examine the interactions of painting, life and film. Beverly’s canvases become another character in themselves.
The three films in this trilogy were long-term commitments because we’re interested in time – time for our characters’ lives to unfold, and time to elucidate layers of interconnections through story, structure, image and sound.
— Steven Ascher & Jeanne Jordan
Beverly McIver was born in Greensboro, North Carolina in 1962. She is the youngest of three girls born to Ethel McIver. Her oldest sister Renee is mentally disabled. Renee is 48 but has the mindset of a second grader. Beverly is Renee’s legal guardian.
Beverly is widely acknowledged as a significant presence in contemporary American art in general and has charted a new direction as a Black woman artist. She is committed to producing art that consistently examines racial, gender, social and occupational identity. Her sister Renee is a frequent subject of the artist as well as other family members.
Her work is in the collection of the North Carolina Museum of Art, the Weatherspoon Art Museum in Greensboro, N.C., the Baltimore Museum of Art, the NCCU Museum of Art , the Asheville Museum of Art, The Crocker Art Museum and the Nelson Fine Arts Museum on the campus of Arizona State University.
She is currently Esbenshade Professor of the Practice in Studio Arts at Duke University. Prior to this appointment, McIver taught at Arizona State University in Tempe, AZ. for twelve years, North Carolina State University and North Carolina Central University. She has also held residencies at many of the nation’s leading artist communities, including YADDO, the Headland Center for the Arts, Djerassi, and Penland School of Crafts. She has served on the board at Penland School of Arts and Crafts and currently serves on the board of directors at YADDO in Saratoga Springs, NY.
McIver’s work has been reviewed in Art News, Art in America The New York Times and a host of local newspapers. She has received numerous grants and awards including the Anonymous Was A Woman Foundation grant, a John Simon Guggenheim Fellowship, a Radcliffe Fellowship from Harvard University, a Marie Walsh Sharpe Foundation award, a distinguished Alumni Award from Pennsylvania State University, a Louis Comfort Tiffany Foundation Award and Creative Capital grant.
McIver earned a bachelor’s degree in art from North Carolina Central University, a master of fine arts degree in painting from Pennsylvania State University and an honorary doctorate from North Carolina Central University.
FULL CREDITS AND FUNDERS
Produced, and directed by
JEANNE JORDAN & STEVEN ASCHER
Cinematography & Sound
Vocal on Slip Away
Color Correction & Online
NEW ENGLAND TRANSCRIPTS
CALLIOPE FILM RESOURCES
C&S International Insurance Brokers
Video at Ethel’s Funeral
MORNINGSIDE HOMES FOOTAGE
Courtesy of Andy Coon
Photographs by John G. Moebes
Courtesy of Corbis
GREENSBORO MASSACRE FOOTAGE
Filmed by Ed Boyd
Courtesy of BBC Motion Gallery
Courtesy of Joseph Level WQMG/WEAL
Written by Marcus Daniel, Wilbur Terrell & William Armstrong
Performed by Sheldon Mirowitz & Tim Pike
Published by EMI
Roni & Hobson Bryant
Lonnie & Olivia Brooks
Boots & Dan Hinkle
Betty Hall McMasters
Addison Gallery of American Art
Arizona State University
Association of Retarded Citizens, Orange County
Melissa & Ernie Button
Rev. Vernon C. King
LewAllen Contemporary Gallery
North Carolina State University
Shirley Henderson Palmer
Radcliffe Institute for Advanced Study
St. James Baptist Church
Chris Santa Maria
For Home Box Office:
For Home Box Office:
A production of
WEST CITY FILMS, INC.
With support from:
In association with
HBO, KNOWLEDGE NETWORK
© West City Films, Inc, MMXI
1930 – 2004