Her principles translate into films

Beth Murphy, Plymouth filmmaker, documents on human rights issues

Plymouth filmmaker Beth Murphy in Cairo making “The Promise of Freedom’’ with Kevin Belli (left) and Sean Flynn. Plymouth filmmaker Beth Murphy in Cairo making “The Promise of Freedom’’ with Kevin Belli (left) and Sean Flynn. (Principle Pictures, Inc./File/2007)
By Linda Matchan
Globe Staff / June 28, 2009
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Documentary filmmaker Beth Murphy of Plymouth is a former TV reporter who started Principle Pictures nine years ago because she wanted to tell compelling stories about global human rights issues.

Since then she has made 20 films on topics ranging from slavery in Sudan to feminism in Bangladesh; most recently she produced “Beyond Belief,’’ about two suburban Boston women who channeled their grief over their husbands’ deaths on 9/11 into founding a program for widows in Afghanistan. Her current work-in-progress is “The Promise of Freedom,’’ about a former US humanitarian worker now leading a grass-roots movement to help thousands of Iraqis who have risked their lives by helping Americans in Iraq.

These sorts of international hot-button issues have traditionally been the domain of journalists, but journalism is being reinvented right now, and international news is being redefined for the digital age. At the Boston-based world news website, for example, videographers file dispatches while they’re working on feature-length documentaries.

“Documentaries have to fill the enormous void that is being left by the news media that are forsaking their responsibility to inform viewers and readers about the world,’’ said Murphy, who makes use of online social networking tools such as Twitter and blogging to build audiences and enhance her stories.

Tonight in Woods Hole, Murphy joins Charles M. Sennott, the executive editor of and a former Boston Globe reporter, to discuss “News and Independent Filmmaking in the Digital Age’’ as a benefit for the Woods Hole Film Festival, which starts July 25. Murphy will show clips from her new film.

For more information, visit Tickets are $25, available at the door. Reception at 6 p.m. at Quicks Hole Restaurant followed by a 7:30 lecture and screening at Redfield Auditorium.

To see a trailer of “The Promise of Freedom,’’ visit

Independent icons

The Brattle Theatre is marking Independence Day tangentially but creatively, hosting a series called “American Independents: The Dawn of New Hollywood.’’ The series’ centerpiece is a weeklong engagement, starting Friday, of the new 35mm restoration of “Easy Rider,’’ issued in honor of the film’s 40th anniversary. With a star-studded cast that included Dennis Hopper, Peter Fonda, and Jack Nicholson, it’s said to be the movie that changed Hollywood forever. (It grossed $50 million on a $375,000 budget.) To put it in context, the Brattle is screening other features from the 1960s and ’70s wave of maverick Hollywood filmmaking, including “The Long Goodbye’’ “Nashville,’’ and a one-day-only engagement of “Alice’s Restaurant’’ on July 2. or 617-876-6837.

Linda Matchan can be reached at

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