Fellow: Awarded 2019
Field of Study: Film
Competition: US & Canada
Benita Raphan is a digital biographer and filmmaker whose career from London and Paris, to New York, has focused on making a series of ‘genius’ films, using the form of a cinematic diary to examine the eccentric and brilliant inner lives of important cultural figures. Her subjects have included Paul Erdös, R. Buckminster Fuller, Helen Keller, and Emily Dickinson. Raphan’s lifelong fascination with exploring where ideas come from and unraveling the mysterious relationship between brain science and creativity is the consistent thread running throughout her diverse projects and informing her experimental, collaborative, process of filmmaking and discovery.
All of Raphan’s films have been produced independently. Many of them have appeared on the Sundance Channel, with some presented on HBO, PBS, and Channel 4 Television in the U.K. A documentary about Raphan and her work aired on Independent Film Channel / Canada. Her films have been screened at the Sundance Film Festival, the Tribeca Film Festival, the Telluride Film Festival, and AFI/Silverdocs, as well as Harvard University, Boston’s Museum of Fine Arts, and New York’s Museum of Modern Art. In 2008, a retrospective of Raphan’s work was shown at the Hamptons Film Festival, the same year a collection of her films was purchased by the Walker Art Center in Minneapolis. Her work is also in London’s British Film & Video Artists’ Film Study Collection and New York’s Cooper Hewitt Smithsonian Design Museum.
Her first film won an award from the British Arts Council, and her second was given a full production grant from Channel 4 Television UK and the British Arts Council. Among other awards and honors, Raphan has received three residencies at MacDowell (2004, 2005, and 2006) and a grant from the New York Foundation for the Arts (2014), to undertake a mentorship with filmmaker Alan Berliner.
Recently, Raphan has become increasingly engaged with the politics of literacy and motivated by a desire to give girls and women greater voice and confidence. Funded by a 2018 grant from the Lower Manhattan Cultural Council and New York State Foundation for the Arts, Raphan ran a hands-on language and literacy workshop for families in collaboration with the New York Public Library. The content for this was inspired by research for her Emily Dickinson film, Up to Astonishment. She is currently ensconced in her next ‘genius’ film.
From Dark to Light, a film about Marshall Arisman, 2011, Digital Film, 2 minutes