Beth Murphy has written, produced and directed almost 20 documentaries, including Tribeca 2007’s “Beyond Belief.” She returns this year with “The List.”
Murphy studied History and International Relations/Communications before working in radio and TV news. Upon leaving, she founded Principle Pictures in order to tell the stories that mattered to her; she leads productions around the world, many in war-torn and developing countries.
“I believe documentary filmmaking is a uniquely powerful way to understand the human drama that defines the world’s most pressing social and political issues,” says Murphy, adding that the type of documentaries she makes are “personal narratives that highlight greater human rights and social problems, and the subjects I choose to focus on are ones that are close to my heart,…my films are about individuals who take action when action may seem unlikely; about the kind of people who make you feel like a better person just for knowing them.”
What it’s about: Modern-day Oskar Schindler Kirk Johnson is fighting to save thousands of Iraqis whose lives are in danger because they worked for the U.S. to help rebuild Iraq.
Director Murphy says: “This is a film about the clarity and conviction of one man in the face America’s war on terrorism, a war that often provides few moments of clarity or moral fortitude. To me, Kirk Johnson represents the best of America – who we want to be or imagine ourselves to be when we engage in the world. The truth is, he is an anomaly. He is a voice in the wilderness, and even as Americans are loathe to hear more about the Iraq war, he continues to remind us that Iraqis lives are at stake because they signed on to help America rebuild their country.”
The challenges: “The security of the Iraqis we interviewed was always our number one priority. All of the people we interviewed were in danger because of an affiliation with America. You can imagine the inherent challenges that this situation created. The majority of the interviews we filmed overseas (in Iraq, Syria, Jordan and Egypt) were done with one major caveat: the interview could only be used in the film if the interview subject had safely been resettled.”
On the personal events bookending her film: “The very first shoot for this film was in Chicago with Kirk Johnson and his parents at his childhood home. Four days earlier, I was celebrating the birth of my daughter, Isabelle. The last shoot for this film was also in Chicago with Kirk Johnson and his parents at his childhood home. Moments after landing in Chicago for this final filming, I received a call from my mother: my father had been in a car accident that afternoon; he was killed. The bookending of our filming with such personal moments of life and loss, gave me pause to think even more about the fragility of the human condition, and the outright injustice of betraying our Iraqi friends and allies. When people are hurting what they need is both compassion and action.”
What’s next: “We have begun production and research on several films. ‘What Tomorrow Brings’ is a film focused on girls’ education in Afghanistan—shot in a conservative village that now has its very first girls’ school; another film is a quintessentially American story that is best described as a modern-day Grapes of Wrath (no working title yet).”
Indiewire invited Tribeca Film Festival directors to tell us about their films, including what inspired them, the challenges they faced and what they’re doing next. We’ll be publishing their responses leading up to the 2012 festival.
Keep checking HERE every day up to the launch for the latest profiles.