On March 13, filmmaker and reporter Brent Renaud was killed during the Russian invasion of Ukraine. The Peabody-winning documentary filmmaker and photographer was only 50 years old.
Brent Renaud ‘Dedicated His Life To Revealing The Beauty And Strength In The Human Spirit’
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Colleagues of the late journalist and filmmaker described him as a “gifted, fearless, and sensitive reporter.”
Stephen Bailey, 33, told PEOPLE that Renaud “dedicated his life to revealing — in what many of us would characterize as the worst of places or things — the beauty and strength in the human spirit that is always there.”
“He was always able to see that in every story he told,” he added. “He made that apparent and showed that that was true.”
Bailey is a documentary producer and director of photography who often traveled and worked with Renaud in some of the most dangerous places in the world. He said that Renaud had an “uncanny ability” of “blending in” to help get hesitant people to open up and share their stories with the world.
“We would be in really scary situations and Brent would always be able to remain so present with whoever we were with and give them his undivided attention and put his own thoughts and feelings aside to hear their story,” Bailed added. “He had that presence that really opened the door for people to share their truths.”
“I never saw him compromise despite this industry, despite what the execs want or what the pressures are,” he continued. “There’s always the push to make things more sensational. He never compromised on his values for seeking and telling the truth the way it is and letting people speak for themselves and what that truth is.”
Brent Renaud Was ‘Just So Good And So Brave’
Just left roadside spot near Irpin where body of American journalist Brent Renaud lay under a blanket. Ukranian medics could do nothing to help him by that stage. Outraged Ukranian police officer: “Tell America, tell the world, what they did to a journalist.”
— Jane Ferguson (@JaneFerguson5) March 13, 2022
An independent journalist and filmmaker, Christof Putzel, 42, said that Renaud was “just so good, and so brave, and so committed to the truth, and so committing to shining a light on people who otherwise don’t get the attention.”
“His gift was he listened to people in a way that made people want to pour their hearts out,” Putzel, 42, continued. “People that wouldn’t talk to anybody else would talk to Brent and tell Brent the most intimate parts and difficult aspects of their life.”
Putzel called Renaud “without question the best documentary filmmaker of our era, the best war journalist of our era, the most empathetic and courageous, ballsy individual you could ever hope to meet.”
Putzel added that he had spoken to Renaud the day before he left for Ukraine, saying that Renaud was working on a project about the global refugee crisis for TIME Studios.
“I said to be safe,” Putzel recalled. “I’ve always had full confidence in Brent, knowing that whatever he was doing was going to be incredible.”
More Colleagues Remember The Late Brent Renaud
.@nytimes is deeply saddened to learn of the death of an American journalist in Ukraine, Brent Renaud.
Brent was a talented photographer and filmmaker, but he was not on assignment for @nytimes in Ukraine.
Full statement is here. pic.twitter.com/bRcrnNDacQ
— Cliff Levy (@cliffordlevy) March 13, 2022
Jack Lofton, 40, former executive director of the Little Rock Film Festival in Arkansas, called Renaud “one of the most hardworking and devoted people I’ve ever met. He was fearless, and nowadays, the truth is getting more and more dangerous.”
He added that Renaud’s loss is “a loss to the entire world.”
“He was willing to take risks that others may not — to try to show what’s actually happening in this world,” Lofton continued. He said that Renaud “shined a light in those dark places and, because of it, he’s made the world a better place.”
Mike Poe, 49, another filmmaker from Little Rock who worked as an events producer and coordinator, said that Renaud “knew the risks he was taking” when he traveled to the war-torn area to cover the story.
“He would not want his death used in vain,” Poe said. “He would not want the governments to use it for more war. He would not want the media to use it to, I guess, drum up the war as well.”
He said that Renaud was fundamental in helping him get back to work after his adopted brother and best friend, musician T.C. Edwards, was fatally shot in 2014.
Poe says that Renaud told him, “I know it’s going to be hard, but you have to keep filming.”
“It made a huge impact on me and it really stuck with me,” Poe recalled. “It gave me the license and to see that I had this mission.”
He added that Renaud would want other reporters and filmmakers not to stop their work in the face of his death. Poe added, “I absolutely know that he would want anyone that is doing what he does to pick up their camera and get to work.”