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Raising Renee - Movie Review - 2012

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Raising Renee - Movie Review - 2012

Raising Renee Poster Art

HBO Documentaries

The Responsibilities of Sisterhood

Beverly McIver is a well-known African-American fine artist whose paintings are often autobiographical and/or portraits of her immediate family, most notably her mother and sister, Renee.

In Raising Renee, filmmakers Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan follow McIver her art career begins to take off, and she finds that she must adjust her life so that she can assume the care of her mentally disabled sister, Renee, after the death of their mother.

McIver's Point of View

The film's narrative through line is primarily a presentation of McIver's point of view, as expressed in up close and very personal on camera interviews and through extremely revelatory voice over narration. Throughout, as she makes her story known, McIver's demeanor is nonchalant, often somewhat self-effacing. She speaks to the camera with what seems to be the kind of candor one associates with psychoanalytic relationships, bur reveals little or no emotion.

McIver accepts the responsibility of caring for Renee, but acknowledges that she deeply resents it. She says she feels trapped, but she neither expresses nor shows her feelings about her situation. Instead, she jokes in an ironic tone as she soldiers on.

Family Secrets

While we observe Renee, who is as loving and sweet as she is child-like, making potholders and expressing her interest in finding a boyfriend, and witness McIver recording their relationship with paint on canvas in compositions she forms from slide-projected images, we learn of the hardships of the sisters' childhood and some secret traumas of McIver's past. The hardships and traumas are harrowing, and they are all the more shocking because of McIver's matter-of-fact manner.

About Real Life and Art

McIver is an extremely strong person, and a fascinating central character for this film. Raising Renee takes you into territories that you might not have visited before. McIver's story is deeply moving. It's also fascinating to come to understand how McIver's art has evolved as an expression of her personal experiences. Raising Renee is sometimes hard to watch, but very worthwhile.

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Film Details

  • Title: Raising Renee
  • Directors: Steven Ascher and Jeanne Jordan
  • US Broadcast Premiere Date: February 22, 2012 (HBO)
  • Running Time: 81 mins.
  • Parental Advisory: Content advisory for parents
  • Location: Various cities in the USA
  • Production Company: West City Films
  • Language: English
  • Distribution Company: HBO Documentaries
  • Official Website
  • Trailer

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