Benita Raphan is a visual 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. They have appeared on the Sundance Channel, HBO, PBS, and Channel Four Television in the UK, and have been screened at venues and festivals including Sundance Film Festival, Tribeca Film Festival, Telluride Film Festival, AFI DOCS, and the Museum of Modern Art, and Institute of Contemporary Arts in London, among others. 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. Her work is also included in the British Artists’ Film & Video Study Collection and the Cooper Hewitt, Smithsonian Design Museum. In addition to her film work, she serves as Project Coordinator in the BFA Design Department at School of Visual Arts (SVA), where she is an alumna and has taught. She is also an alumna of Royal College of Art.
Raphan’s first film won an award from British Council Arts, and her second was given a full co-production grant from Channel 4 Television UK and British Council Arts. Among other awards and honors, Raphan has received three residencies at The MacDowell Colony and a grant from The New York Foundation for the Arts to undertake a mentorship with filmmaker Alan Berliner. Raphan and her work were chronicled in a documentary that aired on Independent Film Channel Canada.
Recently, Raphan has become increasingly engaged with the politics of literacy, motivated by a desire to give girls and women greater voice and confidence. In 2018, Raphan ran a hands-on language and literacy workshop for families in collaboration with The New York Public Library, supported by the New York City Department of Cultural Affairs in partnership with the City Council and administered by Lower Manhattan Community Council. 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.