LITTLE ROCK, Ark. – The Arkansas film community is in mourning following the death of renowned filmmaker Brent Renaud, a documentarian killed while covering refugees in Ukraine.
Renaud was known internationally for telling the true human stories behind the violence, covering everything from Mexican cartels to addiction and war. Those that know him say he was just doing what he does best when he was killed in Ukraine: focusing on the impact war has on the people caught in the middle.
Those in Arkansas who knew him say they’re feeling a mix of heartbreak and disbelief, focusing now on preserving the legacy of the Little Rock filmmaker and journalist for generations to come.
Friends like Arkansas Film Commissioner Christopher Crane are looking past the international headlines, remembering Renaud as more than just a fallen filmmaker but also a brother to Craig, a teacher to Arkansans, and a friend to all.
“It’s very unfortunate,” Crane said, getting choked up when asked about his reaction to Renaud’s death. “Everybody was shocked. You think of Brent being able to get into places and then get out.”
Crane first met Renaud when he became the Film Commissioner in 2007. Over the years, he’s worked closely with both Brent and Craig, attending local film festivals and viewing their partnerships with outlets such as HBO and The New York Times.
“You’re not going to meet two better people,” Crane said. “They’re those people who you were automatically best friends with.”
Renaud was the co-founder of the Little Rock Film Festival, a champion of Arkansan filmmakers, and according to Crane, a man not afraid to look behind the scenes of dangerous and violent situations to share the truth of the people involved.
It was this truth that brought him to war, covering Ukrainian refugees when the car he was in came under fire. Other foreign journalists in the vehicle were also shot, but Renaud was killed by the gunfire.
It’s those final moments that shocked the world, the first American journalist killed in Ukraine and possibly the first foreign journalist. But back in his hometown, those that know of the man behind the lens are focusing more on what comes next.
“In the future,” Crane said, “we’re going to look at as somebody who made a direct impact not only in Arkansas but the entire world of journalism.”