Andrew Berends was a courageous and talented filmmaker who sought out stories in places which the mainstream media ignored. He shone a light on communities, people, and children facing unimaginable hardships. He traveled, shot, edited, and promoted his work with intense fervor and dedication. The Andrew Berends Film Fellowship was born out of the desire of Andy’s family, friends, and colleagues to keep his memory alive and active in the world of documentary where he himself thrived.
The mission of this fellowship is to support emerging filmmakers from all walks of life that embody Andy’s spirit and determination, with a focus on sharing unheard stories. We hope that the Fellowship experience will help Fellows make a shift in their careers to the next level of success and artistic fulfillment.
The Andrew Berends Film Fellowship will include:
A one-time grant of $5,000 towards filmmaking expenses (this is not a co-production grant);
Connection with a Fellowship Mentor for guidance in finishing the project;
A ScreeningRoom Pro account to connect with other artists and screen your film;
Film Festival passes, including the Vail Film Festival, the Camden International Film Festival, the Hot Springs Documentary Film Festival and more to be announced;
Networking opportunities as they arise;
Other benefits to include publications, industry events, editing and other software.
The first round of the application is now live at this link. The deadline is December 1, 2019. Fellows will be announced in early 2020.
The Fellowship accepts applicants, 18 years or older, from all backgrounds and locations.
Applicants must be currently working on a feature documentary project in the spirit of Andrew Berends’ work. We recommend screening at least 2 of Andy’s films, available here, before applying. Note that while many of Andy’s films take place in conflict zones, the Fellowship is not limited to films about war; all stories are welcome to be submitted.
Applicants must have either:
Completed at least one feature documentary project previously OR;
Completed at least one published documentary photography project OR;
Worked as the lead editor, producer or cinematographer on a feature documentary project OR;
Completed a trailer or sample of the current project.
Andy was an OG independent filmmaker – so incredibly dedicated to
making films and telling stories from under-represented parts of the
world and sharing the voices of people so rarely heard. He cared about
that deeply and gave it everything. That was his focus first and
foremost- his passion was so pure. And he had so much respect and
empathy for the people he filmed. I first met him in Iraq when a crew of
us -Micah, James Longley and Phillip Robertson were staying at the
inexpensive Dulaimi Hotel in Baghdad- refuge of many documentary
filmmakers on small budgets- where he was working on his second film,
The Blood of My Brother. I am so glad I got to see Andy at the Telluride
Film Festival this past summer for James’ film premiere. Andy had
driven there through from CA by motorcycle – a warm testament to his
independent adventurous spirit. We also got to see Free Solo at
Telluride and Andy had filmed some of it- some scenes that I loved and
remember vividly for their strong verite feel. A few years ago we saw
Andy’s last film, Madina’s Dream, at Stranger than Fiction in New York.
That film is such a blend of bravery, artistry and empathy. And per
usual, he was so humble about it, wanting to focus on the issue and the
people in the film. I also took a RISC Training class with Andy in New
York a while back – another testament of his focus on others by learning
how to help save colleagues in the field. I only wish we all could have
helped him more as he struggled with depression and his recent
Parkinson’s diagnosis. These things are so hard to talk about personally
and in ones creative field. There is nothing that can dull the tragedy
of Andy taking his own life and the devastation of knowing now the huge
amount of pain he was going through. I hope though it can motivate us as
a community to encourage openness about mental health and struggles in
our work. Andy, we will miss your sweet, kind, funny, unique, talented
self and we celebrate your incredible work and dedication. You will
continue to inspire us. Rest In Peace. Your friends, Marie-Helene
Carleton and Micah Garen
A song for Andy
I wrote a song to Andy. I have trouble summing him up in words, but it’s been helpful for me just to talk with him, at least in my head. It’s called “I Hope You Knew.”
Though I’ve known Andy all my life we were closest in high school
and through the 90’s. Andy was an old school 60’s style hippie all the
way through high school. Which was kind of ballsy when you consider that
that kind of stuff was pretty passé in the late 80’s. It was the golden
age of the mullet but Andy was not having that. Full locks. He would
drag us to see the Dead and he never wore deodorant. My god that kid
stank. He taught me Friend of the Devil and Ripple on the guitar and I
can still play those tunes.
In the nineties we spent a lot of time hanging around Brooklyn when
he first moved there and the Manhattan theater scene. We met lots of
awesome women and drank lots of beer. It was great. He was getting into
film editing and I was doing lots of off-off-Broadway. The Upright
Citizens Brigade was a new thing and we took their improv classes. He
was much better than me.
Andy loved the hedonism of hippie life but it was also about fierce
idealism. As everyone’s been noting, Andy was a dyed in the wool liberal
that would go to the wall for anybody he thought had gotten a raw deal.
That went for all sorts of oppressed groups but also for friends. I
never had a better friend. He’d do anything for you. He was always there
and he never judged me. I remember many time being amazed at the depth
of the generosity and empathy (sometimes I just thought he was foolish).
I never told him that. Probably because would only have made some kind
of joke and told me to lighten up.
Anyway I will miss Andy terribly as we all will. Thanks for this chance to remember him.
Letter to Andy on his birthday
Andy, my friend,
All the stories and tributes about how brave you were, about your
singular and steadfast gaze on the small and vulnerable in the midst of
chaos, about how kids loved you and you loved them, about how and why
your work was riveting and important, all of these are true.
It is also true that you were often pretty nervous and awkward around
girls and were eager for coaching. That you came early and stayed late.
That you relished a home cooked meal and in the early days, drank a lot
of my beer. That though you almost always were over to watch a movie
with my Andy, you saw me, and in your gaze I was always beautiful, and
you were always up for dancing. By the time that you were not well, the
family quality of our friendship was complete, my half Dutch, all
American little brother, and in those dark days you let me mother you.
Your vulnerability and simple gratitude for human connection at each one
of those stages was a gift that brought out the same in every one — so
many! — in your world.
Today I should have been reaching out to wish you a happy birthday.
I’m going to do my best to trust that you knew how much I loved you,
even though it had been way too long.
I miss you, buddy.
Love always, Jenny
When I think of Andy, I think of goofiness. I know, he spent his time in war zones, embedded with Nigerian rebel groups, or elsewhere, but that’s not what we talked about. We talked about our love of big sandwiches over hamburgers. I’d look forward to seeing him at BBQs or where ever — if he was in the country, he’d be there — and we’d catch up and laugh about nothing over a drink. How after a hike, he’d be the first person to strip off his clothes and and go skinnydipping in a pond. Or the time I went to a NY marathon party at his S. Williamsburg apartment and saw that he used the same Aveda shampoo and conditioner I did, and what a great day of teasing that was. Andy was somehow both awkward and charming, and had huge mouth for a huge smile. And of course I remember the call I got the day he was arrested in Nigeria – I work at Human Rights Watch, and I quickly hunted down a friend in our Africa division and she told me “everyone is on his case already,” that I could rest easy (I didn’t) because good people were on it. And how when he was released, he worked so hard to help his fixer, who was also arrested but didn’t have a US passport to extricate himself with. There was a time when I grew sick of all the Kickstarter campaigns I was asked to fund, but I always donated to Andy’s. You knew something good would come of it. I knew Andy had struggles with depression, and I was so very, very sorry to hear that we lost him. The world will miss him.
I’ve been struggling to put pen to paper about Andy, not because
there aren’t great things to say about him, but because writing
something about him makes his passing all the more real and true. I met
Andy randomly one night back in 2011 at a neighborhood bar. I was saving
a stool for a friend who was running late, and Andy walked in and asked
if he could sit there. It was crowded so there weren’t any seats
besides that one. I told him in a very matter-of-fact way that I was
saving it for a friend, but he could sit there until my friend came, and
at that point then he’d have to get up. Andy laughed when I said that,
and sat down. He had just moved into his apartment that night & was
new to the neighborhood. When my friend came, Andy got up to move, and
my friend scolded me for being rude & then he found another stool
in the bar and brought it over so Andy could stay in his seat. I kept
repeating that I hadn’t meant to be rude & had just been being
honest, & all I can remember is Andy laughing at me & saying he
appreciated my candor. Luckily Andy didn’t think I was being bitchy, and
understood I had just been looking out for a friend. His forgiving
nature and his assuming the best of intentions is what I remember most
about our first meeting. The three of us all hung out that night, &
Andy & I exchanged info. It took several months to hang out again
due to our schedules, but what I remember from our subsequent night out
was that Andy told me about his travels and nonchalantly mentioned he
had biked 100 miles the weekend before. (Oh, & he also threw in a
sub about his best marathon time beating mine, & told me I was
slow.) That was Andy— always downplaying his amazing feats and travels
and work, & always giving me gentle ribbing, like an older brother
would have done. He would say comments that he knew would irritate me
& push the envelope, and oh how he’d laugh when I’d get annoyed,
give him the side eye, and tell him to stop. He thought it was funny
because he always said I didn’t get mad very often.
Andy and I became running buddies in late 2014. I had a running job,
so Andy started coming to workouts. The first time he came out, he
hadn’t run in years, & despite my protests that it was too much too
soon, he joined the 7 mile group I was pacing & completed the whole
thing. When Andy went in on something, he went in big and he committed;
there was no half-assing it with him. He showed up on Saturday mornings
in his tights, and we ran all sorts of miles around NYC that winter in
the crazy freezing weather. He loved it and began posting photos with
his #tights hashtag. I told him many times that his running fashion
needed sprucing up, but he laughed & shook his head at me &
kept wearing that drab brown Patagonia sweater jacket. He made me laugh
so hard quite often with his sense of humor, and after runs, we’d often
take the train home together & chop it up on the ride home, or
sometimes I’d stop by his apartment on my way to workouts and pick him
up & we’d catch up that way. We put a lot of miles in that winter
and spring, & I still remember us running through Central Park one
cold Saturday morning, with him heckling me as I paced him and a group
of runners, & me not being able to rudely retort back as I normally
would because I was working, & him relishing in that fact, ribbing
me relentlessly. He ran a half marathon that May. His shorts split down
the rear the night before, so he MacGyvered them up and ran in them the
next day. He seemed to be in his element at the end of that race with
all his running pals around him, & I remember he looked so happy on
the Cyclones baseball field afterwards. He even had taken a post race
dip in the ocean after. Andy and I talked exercise stuff often, & he
was always telling me how he loved weights & shit talked a lot,
saying he was faster than me. (He wasn’t, ha ha.)
Those runs brought us closer, and although there was a point Andy
didn’t run with me anymore, we still saw one another, just not as often.
When he first started feeling down, he’d come to my apartment sometimes
and hang out. It was extremely hard to see him hurting & struggling
so much. Sometimes I would listen & other times, I’d give him tough
love & reprimand him like an old lady aunty would. I hope he
understood that it wasn’t that I didn’t care; I just wanted him to take
the steps needed to get better. I hope he knew that I did the best I
Though he had a wry sense of humor, Andy was a sensitive man who
really thought deeply about things. He’d call me up and bare his soul
and apologize for what he thought was complaining. I’d always tell him
it wasn’t. Because it wasn’t. We were friends being there for one
another. I also knew that Andy hid parts of himself so if he was willing
to bare them, it was significant. Andy struggled like most of us do,
& he wanted to be able to tough it out and push through, like many
of us often want to. He was courageous, letting folks in when he felt
the most vulnerable & embarrassed, & we saw him at some really
tough points. Even in his darkest moments he was able to laugh and find
humor, & I always appreciated that about him. Eventually he took the
steps to get better, & slowly he did. He told me he was going to CA
for a visit, but he then ended up staying there for good. I never got
to see him before he left, & though he invited me to come visit
numerous times, life got in the way and I never did. So I never got to
Andy would always encourage me to go for it when any opportunity
would come my way. Often I was too hesitant, and I wish I had Andy’s
drive and lack of fear for new situations. I admired it so much. He
threw himself into his work with a passion and vigor. He seemed unafraid
to go on the front lines. If he was white knuckling it, he never ever
said it. He went to parts of the world that most of us would never see,
& documented the marginalized people who suffered from disasters,
wars, & displacement; all sorts of terrible things. He witnessed so
much, and did it fearlessly, camera in hand. He didn’t talk much about
his work & accomplishments to me, & I wish I would have asked
more about it now. He always downplayed it as being very “everyday”
though we both knew it wasn’t, and I wish I’d have heard more stories
from him about his work & travels. I definitely missed out.
Though Andy would poke fun at me constantly and try to get under my
skin, when I made jokes about myself it was another matter. Andy always
countered my self deprecating jokes with positives. He was the kind of
guy who made sure you knew your positive attributes, & he reminded
you constantly of them. He always made you feel important, beautiful,
appreciated, & understood, & after hanging out with him you
walked out of there feeling better about yourself than when you had come
in. Even in his last days when he was struggling, Andy was a pillar of
support for me and extended himself. To know that he did that while he
was struggling so much is remarkable and speaks to the type of person
and friend he was. Even when it was hard for him, he found the time to
listen and encourage. I’m still awed by the sheer generosity of it. He
made room, even when things were super tough for him.
Among many things, I’ll miss Andy for his sheer honesty, his love of
exercise & those weights he raved about that he had in his apartment
(I never quite understood how they worked, despite the many times he
patiently tried to school me on it), his sarcasm & jokes, him
introducing me to movies at Nitehawk (he was right; it is a great
place!), his love of that awful Rosemunde sausage place, many afternoons
of hot chocolate and coffee & nights of beers, comedy show outings,
our heated discussions about his crazy food fads, him making me laugh
when things were serious and tough for either one of us, his courage in
the face of managing not one but two difficult medical illnesses, &
most importantly, his enthusiasm, enjoyment, & curiosity for the
smaller things in life. He reminded me to get excited about things and
appreciate the simple things in life. On winter runs, especially those
in Central Park I’ll think of him always complaining during the slog of
it but saying how amazing & refreshed & alive he felt after. As I
walk around the neighborhood, I’m reminded of him so damn much. Andy
was a good soul, as they say, and I’m truly lucky & better for it to
have known him & have had him as a friend. I’m going to miss him
for sure. The night of our final call, after we hung up, I realized I
hadn’t said I love you. I thought of calling back to say it, but it was
really late, so I thought, “oh, he knows” & I went to bed. I now
wish I had called back and told him. I’m hoping that Andy knew.
Andy, I wish you could have stayed. I really, really do. But I
understand. I’m hoping you have found peace and are not suffering
anymore. I hope your mind is calmed and free of worry. I hope you’re
smiling in some sunny place with a beautiful, picturesque view fit for
that camera of yours. And I hope you know that you left so many people
behind that really feel your absence & loved you, including me. You
brought us all together, & some of us forged friendships because of
you. I’ll miss you dearly, my friend. Rest easy.
by R. Hooman
One of the things I loved about Andy, and maybe even the reason we connected so well, is my propensity to dish it hard no holds barred and Andy’s unflinching quality to dish it right back harder. Didn’t really matter what I hurled at him or when, he had a sharp and quick response. He was NEVER offended, never hurt, never personal about that shit. In hindsight, no external thing was gonna take Andy down. Tough as nails. Even in the midst of one of his paralyzing bouts with depression, sprawled on the orange loveseat at 14 Bergen, bouncing back and forth between crying and crippling pain, I’d take a jab at him and bust his balls about something. After a beat, he’d shoot one right back, cracking a brief grin, really proud of himself and his remark, before fading back again.
Remembering one of my oldest and best friends
by Jason Gardner
A few days ago I lost one of my closest friends, one I’ve
known since kindergarten.
Andrew Lukas Berends was an extremely gifted artist,
filmmaker, photographer, musician, documentarian, and a humanist. Quite
concerned with the human condition around him, tackling difficult and serious
subjects, he also could be super silly and goofy at times. Tall and athletic
and rangy, he was a little uncoordinated in a funny way. Nearly always up for
anything social when I called, but yet a bit shy in reaching out.
An intensely private person, he shared with only a few
people when he was really struggling with his debilitating depression a couple
of years ago. Ironically he had fought back from that to seemingly emerge as
strong as ever, taking meds, doing a lot of physical exercise and continuing to
make films in demanding places. He told even fewer about his Parkinson’s
diagnosis, which until recently he swore he was going to fight. I’m truly sorry
he lost that fight.
In no particular order, I remember: helping him pack his
bulletproof vest for his first Iraq filmmaking trip, playing guitar in high
school youth group, going on many hikes which usually ended up in him jumping
naked in a lake or river, being his wing man at the Tribeca Film Festival
parties, him speaking at my wedding and taking some great behind the scenes
phone shots of my wife and me, him winning the Providence Film Festival, making
fun of Ms Hinkel in our high school French class (we both needed to speak
French later on in life – should have paid more attention!), figuring out his
crowdfunding campaign for raising money to complete a few of his films, hearing
the stories of how he swallowed a SIM card in Nigerian jail so as not to reveal
his rebel contacts, being his neighbor for a few years in Boerum Hill Brooklyn
so I could pop over anytime, hitting Jones Beach or Amagansett for a summer
weekend escape, us enjoying the insanity of Rio de Janeiro New Year’s, going
sailing with Mike on the Hudson River, various Fourth of July on his
Williamsburg rooftop, taking photography walks with no purpose other than
looking and talking in Chinatown and Gowanus and upstate, him jumping on
Toshi’s car roof in that silly anthropological video we did in high school, us
fedexing each other replacement equipment in various foreign locations, the
list goes on.
As his video reel shows, he was a sensitive soul, and we had multiple
long conversations about how he felt truly alive when in the field
documenting these human problems, and his struggle when he was back in
NY and not active. He also wanted a normal life and to love and be loved
by someone, and he struggled with some of his brave choices like many
of us. Clearly he traveled to the most extreme conflict locations to
connect to the fire that raged inside of him, that he did not share with
many. He and his work will be remembered.
At the moment we have confirmed that on Tuesday 5/28 in the
evening there will be a memorial hosted by the good people at Pure
Nonfiction at the IFC Theater in the West Village for friends and
colleagues, to celebrate his life and work. There will also be a
more formal memorial for family and friends, to be announced. We’re
also discussing a fund for a charity or filmmaking fellowship of the
family’s choosing. More details as they develop.
Berends wasn’t interested in becoming a martyr to the documentary film
community or anyone else. Andy just wanted to be happy, and to be free
from the physical and emotional agony he was feeling. Andy had simple
dreams. He wanted to kiss that girl again—the one he met, the one who
ghosted. He wanted to go back to the Ngong Hills in southern Kenya,
where there is a tree on a hillside bending in the wind. He missed it so
bad, he said. Andy wanted to recover from Parkinson’s. He wanted not to
be lonely. He wanted to have a family, to feel little babies crawling
wanted those things, but he saw them slipping away into impossibility,
and himself slipping away with them. He saw a future in which he would
no longer be able to work, in which all over, his muscles would ache
each day, in which his memory would fail and his hands would shake and
nobody would want to look at him. These were the thoughts that made his
life unbearable, that he wanted to escape. It was, he said, too soon. He
was, he said, too young. He felt worn down to nothing, and that was
In his last month, Andy filmed a story for Vice about asylum seekers on the southern border. He felt proud of the work. He rode around Berkeley on his motorcycle and watched movies. He recommended They Shall Not Grow Old. He watched Mishima.
He sent me an image of the final shot playing on his TV, the shot
right before the writer takes his own life. Andy was also looking for
beauty and truth, and it was painful for him to live in a world where
those things seem to grow ever scarcer with each passing season.
met Andy in 1991, when we both transferred to Wesleyan University from
different schools and shared a house. He played the guitar, marveled at
Led Zeppelin, and was friends with everyone. In our senior year I was
the DP on his thesis film, and I could see his determination and
commitment to filmmaking taking shape. After college we were off finding
our parallel paths; I made a film about the Gaza Strip and he made a
film about North Sea fishermen in the Netherlands.
reconnected in Iraq. I arrived before him; he was looking for advice
and contacts. He wanted to know how he should dress for the place. Maybe
grow a beard, I suggested. Andy showed up in Baghdad looking like a
werewolf with mange. Lose the beard, I suggested. In his first weeks in
Iraq, Andy was already showing the rest of us what fearlessness looks
like. When he was out filming with other journos, a guy brandished an
RPG at them and took aim. The other journalists scattered. Andy stood
his ground and aimed back with his camera. He just wanted to get the
was probably in Iraq where Andy both found his calling and lost
himself. He lost himself in conveying the stark realities of other
people, in becoming their voice, their witness. He understood it was
Sisyphean, but he was Sisyphus. He couldn’t help it. Once he had escaped
the filters of the privileged, soft world in which most of us live and
tasted the world as it exists at the margins, he was hooked. Everything
else feels trivial, unimportant. The mountains of our first-world
problems become molehills next to the calamities we thoughtlessly create
outside the range of our collective vision.
Nigeria, Sudan, Senegal, Indonesia, Bangladesh, Kenya—these are the
places where he found his brothers, his human compatriots and his
mission in life. By the end, he could see it all clearly, and the things
he saw took their toll. Our only defense is a movie camera, and it can
be a very thin shield to hold back the enormity of the world. Andy told
me of hiding from the Antonov bombers with refugee families in the caves
of Sudan, how the children snuck out to eat the leaves off of trees,
and he cried from the helplessness.
he could no sooner have stopped making his films than he could have
stopped the world turning; it took the worsening symptoms of Parkinson’s
to do that. Just the thought of no longer being able to hold his camera
steady was too much to accept.
his final messages he encouraged me to continue my work as I set off on
a new film, a new obsession. This time he was the one giving me
guidance and contacts—where to stay, whom to work with. Andy had
prepared the ground for me to walk. He told me he was proud of me, that I
would succeed. He must already have known he wouldn’t be around to see
the next film. Andy was my friend, he was my brother, he was as strong a
person as I’ll likely ever know, and I will hold his determination,
humor, honesty and strength inside my heart, as I know he would have
wanted. Rest in peace, Andy.
James Longley is the director of award-winning documentary films including Iraq in Fragments and Sari’s Mother. James’ new film about Afghanistan, Angels Are Made of Light, opens theatrically this summer.
I had the privilege of working with Andrew Berends on his film Madina’s Dream in
2014/2015. Andy was one of the bravest people I’ve ever met. His
stories of being under fire in Iraq and detained in Nigeria while
working on docs were beyond crazy – but for him, it was just part of his
work. He was so dedicated to telling stories of people who were
struggling to survive in conflict zones, and bringing a camera into the
most dangerous places on earth to show the human cost of war.
We have lost a wonderful friend and an important filmmaker – Andrew Berends. I first met Andy in 2006 when I saw his film Blood of my Brother. I was taken by his poignant and human images and asked our mutual friend Gwyn Welles to introduce us. We found that we had a lot in common including our passion for Africa. Andy and I went on to make 2 films together, Incorruptible and Little Troopers. We also collaborated on many other projects. We traveled throughout West Africa, Europe, Kosovo, the US and most recently he filmed with jimmy and my team on Free Solo. Andy’s intelligence, sensitivity, bravery, loyalty, strength, perfectionism and fierce sense of justice made him an excellent filmmaker and a trusted friend. Andy the images you captured and the stories you told are beautiful and critical and they will live on. Thank you for being my friend and collaborator all these years. I will miss your goofy sense of humor, your infectious hope, your gravely voice, your sensitivity, your great notes giving, your creativity, your biking outfits, your unique morning routines, your fraught but hilarious relationship stories, your unbridled passion, your exacting perfectionism, your love and your friendship. You protected me when things got tough both in and off the field. Your work was so so good. You accepted me and other friends worts and all — yet always demanded that we rise to our best selves. You required the same of yourself and that’s why you were such a good filmmaker and such a complex friend. You touched so many lives. I know the pain you felt was profound, real and relentless. I know you suffered. I can only hope you have finally found some peace and justice as you so deserve it. I’m sorry it was this way. Our community lost an amazing person. I will always love and remember you Andy. I encourage everyone to watch Andy’s remarkable films. Urk (2003) The Blood of My Brother (2005), Delta Boys (2012), Madina’s Dream (2015)
I last saw Andy a few weeks ago and am feeling devastated, like so many of you. I am very grateful for all of your memories of Andy. There’s some comfort in your words, and so I will try and share some of my memories as well.
I was lucky enough to work with Andy on three of his films. And I’m so thankful that we got to see a lot more of each other recently when he moved into my neighborhood in Berkeley, often over beers in his beautiful backyard or over post-movie dinners.
I owe my career as an editor to Andy. When we met, serendipitously through an online posting, he had recently returned from Baghdad. He didn’t have much money to pay an editor and I, having just graduated from college, had literally no experience. Andy took a chance on me. He would pay for lunch to make up for the low pay, and we’d sit and eat on the stone steps by the East River in Dumbo, listening to the trains pass overhead on the Manhattan Bridge. It was clear from the first frames of footage I saw that Andy was incredibly talented and had captured something important in his time in Iraq.
I remember the first grant we received – NYSCA, I think. We worked straight through our normal lunch hour until around 3pm, and then took off for Grimaldi’s, where we ordered a couple pizzas and got drunk on the house wine, celebrating our new funds.
Andy was perhaps the most courageous person I know, though he never thought of his actions that way. I remember when we were editing Blood of My Brother, I naively expressed frustration with him for only filming one exterior establishing shot of the main character’s house in Baghdad, despite at least a dozen shoots inside the house. It was then that Andy described laying down in the back of the car when he drove there so that no one would see the American filmmaker visiting this family – to protect them and to protect himself. Getting just that one shot was risky.
At festival Q&As for that film, he would often say that he decided to go to Iraq while Christmas shopping in a mall. He couldn’t bear that the scene in that mall was what it looked like in the US when the country was at war. He wanted to bring it home to all of us what war really meant for those experiencing it. And he was willing to literally run through gunfire to help Americans understand the human impact of the war.
A few years later, he was filming for Delta Boys, living in a rebel camp in the Niger Delta, sending drives back to New York every few weeks just in case something happened. And of course, as most of you know, it did happen. He was arrested and held for nine days. But somehow, when he landed back in New York, he didn’t seem that shaken by it all. I think he always knew it was part of the gig. And more than that, I think he felt at home in that rebel camp, finding and capturing stories few of us would dare seek out.
When I first started working with Andy, I was still too young to recognize what an important place in history and in the historical record his work would have. I couldn’t be prouder to have worked together with him on these films. In the Jewish tradition, we say, “may his memory be a blessing.” Andy’s presence was a blessing to me in many ways, and I know his memory and his work will continue to be so for many of us for a long time to come.
A time it was, and what a time it was, it was A time of innocence A time of confidences
Long ago it must be I have a photograph Preserve your memories They’re all that’s left you
I’m filled with sorrow and regret today, but also with joy as I remember the time Andy and I spent together: going to double features at the Roxie, discussing films and sharing our memories of travel and the stories of people we’d met around the world. Watching Andy pick up a camera, a mouse at an edit bay, a best friend’s child—these are moments I’ll forever cherish. A wonderful, dedicated filmmaker and friend, a loss felt by so many. Love you, Andy.
As we digest the personal loss of Andy Berends our friend, one of the best tributes is to honor Andy Berends the filmmaker. He continuously took tremendous personal risk to share untold stories of disenfranchised civilians affected by war and natural disaster around the world. The poetry of his cinematic skills was matched by his tenacity as a journalist and storyteller. In addition to his own films made in Iraq, Nigeria and South Sudan, and his amazing work for other directors across Africa, Andy recently worked on projects for the UN, UNICEF and the Red Cross in places like Indonesia, Bangaldesh and more. Andy shared this reel with me several times while it was still in progress. It gave me chills every time. –Mike Liss
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John Burgan, Berlin, Germany
For more recent D-Word members, here is the special topic we set up back in 2008 when Andy was arrested by the military in Nigeria. Reading it through, it becomes very clear why we all thought so highly of him, and why this sudden loss feels so cruel.
Andy had an amazing eye, human being, inspiration…
I’ve known Andy since 1999 when he placed an ad in the Village Voice “looking for a Dutch speaking editor” to help him with a planned documentary about his father. Which turned into his first film Urk that I edited in 2001. He worked at Ogilvy to make money to pay me and I worked on his Avid in his apartment.
On Sept 11 he came home to show me the papers that he found in the street that blew out of the trade center.
As fellow filmmakers we shared many adventures, ups and downs in our lives. In 2004 he was “unembedded” in Iraq filming 2 documentaries again self financed with his advertising work and I made a blog from the emails he send to me and his other friends. Go here for Andy in his own words from 2004 when he was working in Iraq. (scroll to bottom for chronological order)
In 2006 we hiked in the Catskills a lot with a big group of friends.