Brent Renaud was an internationally acclaimed filmmaker who traveled to the darkest corners of the globe to make documentaries that took audiences to places of great suffering. He died on Sunday, after Russian forces opened fire in Ukraine.
Little Rock, Arkansas native, 50, was collecting material for a report on refugees when his vehicle was struck at an Irpin checkpoint, just outside Kyiv, Ukraine. According to the Ukraine’s Interior Ministry, intense Russian shelling has been occurring in the region over recent days.
Christof Putzel, a friend and filmmaker, said that Renaud was one the most respected independent producers in his time. He had sent Renaud a text just three days prior to his death. Putzel and Renaud won an Alfred I. duPont Columbia University journalism award in 2013 for “Arming the Mexican Cartels”, a documentary about how gun trafficking from the United States fuels rampant drug gang violence.
Putzel said that the man was “the absolute best,” and spoke to The Associated Press by phone from New York City. “He was the best war journalist I knew. This man literally traveled to every conflict zone.
Although the details of Renaud’s death are not yet known by Ukrainian authorities Juan Arredondo, an American journalist, stated that the two were travelling in a vehicle towards the Irpin checkpoint and were shot at. Arredondo said that Renaud was shot in the neck while speaking from a Kyiv hospital. Camilli said to the AP that Arredondo had been hit in his lower back.
“We crossed the first bridge at Irpin. We were filming refugees fleeing. Then we got in a car and someone offered to drive us to the second bridge. They started shooting at us,” Arredondo shared with Camilli in a video interview.
According to Kyiv regional police, the Russian troops had opened fire on Renaud’s car. Oleksandr Markushyn, the mayor of Irpin, stated that journalists would not be allowed to enter the city after the shooting.
Markushyn stated, “In this manner, we want to preserve the lives of both their and our defenders.”
The U.S. State Department stated that it would not comment on Renaud’s death out of respect to his family members, but that they were offering consular assistance.
The U.S. State Department condemned attacks against news professionals and other documenting the conflict.
“We are horrified that journalists and filmmakers–noncombatants–have been killed and injured in Ukraine by Kremlin forces,” the department said via Twitter. “This is yet more gruesome example indiscriminate Kremlin actions.”
The New York-based Committee to Protect Journalists demanded an immediate halt to violence towards journalists and civilians in response to Renaud’s passing.
The committee stated on Twitter that “this kind of attack was totally unacceptable” and violates international law.
TIME issued a statement regretting Renaud’s passing and stating that he was in the region to work on a TIME Studios project focusing on the global refugee crisis.
The statement stated that Brent Renaud’s death has left them “devastated”. “Our hearts are with Brent’s loved ones.”
Renaud, along with his brother Craig won a Peabody Award in “Last Chance High,” an HBO show about a school for at risk youth on Chicago’s West Side. Two duPont-Columbia Journalism Awards and productions for HBO and NBC, Discovery and PBS are just a few of the many achievements that Renaud and Craig have made.
Renaud was also a Harvard Nieman Fellow in 2019 and was a visiting professor for the Center for Ethics in Journalism, University of Arkansas. His brother and he founded the Little Rock Film Festival.
Renaud was also responsible for covering wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the Haiti earthquake of 2011, political turmoil in Egypt, Libya, and extremism across Africa.
Renaud’s 12-year-old employee, Putzel, expressed gratitude for his courage and passion.
Putzel stated, “Nowhere was too risky.” It was not only his bravery, but also because he cared deeply.
Craig’s brother, Craig’s wife Mami and Taiyo, his nephew, are his survivors.