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Craig Renaud documents Southern storytellers while mourning his late brother

The South is full of storytellers. Everybody knows that. But what have those storytellers got to say, right now, about the state of the South and the larger world?

That’s what Craig Renaud set out to discover.

He’s the producer and director of the three-hour documentary series “Southern Storytellers,” which debuted on PBS this week.

It features some of the South’s most interesting contemporary voices, from novelist Jesmyn Ward to singer Jason Isbell to poet Natasha Trethewey. You see them both out on the road, doing their work, and at home, visiting their old hometowns and hanging out with their families.

You also see old clips of writers from Tennessee Williams to Ralph Ellison, wrestling with the idea of what it means to be a storyteller from the South.

Renaud is a Peabody Award-winning filmmaker known for documentaries like HBO’s “Dope Sick Love” and Vice’s “Last Chance High.” He did most of that work with his brother, Brent — they made films together from the time they were kids growing up in Little Rock.

But last year, Brent was killed in an ambush by Russian soldiers in Ukraine as he worked on a documentary about refugees.

And now Craig’s mission has become to tell not just the stories of the refugees, but the story of his brother.

Other music in this episode (through Free Music Archive)

  • Jason Shaw, "Travel Light"
  • Serge Quadrado, "Lived Years"
Tommy Tomlinson has hosted the podcast SouthBound for WFAE since 2017. He also does a commentary, On My Mind, which airs every Monday.