Festival Year: 2023, 2019

Judith Helfand

Roles: Special Guest

Judith Helfand is best known for her open-hearted, artfully self-deprecating and very transparent approach to non-fiction filmmaking. Her genre: “serious fun” meets “toxic comedy”.Her mission: explore and expose the long term impact of cynical “business as usual” profit-driven decision making and the systemic denial of man-made public health crises from climate change to structural racism. Her strategy: balance the horror with unexpected humor, humility and chutzpah – tools she used to create an award winning crowd pleasing body of work that has helped broaden the definition of “environmental” including A HEALTHY BABY GIRL (‘97) to BLUE VINYL (2002) to COOKED: SURVIVAL BY ZIP CODE (2018/19). Her most recent feature film is LOVE & STUFF, a piece that intricately weaves twenty-five years of Helfand’s family-footage-turned-seamless-cinematic portal, in which she explores the blessing/privilege of living “a good death” followed by very good, communally embraced grief, and what it is we really need to leave our children.

Helfand has taught the art and craft of documentary to undergraduate film majors at NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts,, to environmental studies majors at UW/Madison, to emerging filmmakers at Detroits’ Wayne State University, and most recently she was a visiting professor at Columbia University’s “J” School with a focus on visual journalism. She is as much a field-builder as she is a filmmaker and educator, which led her to co-found two foundational non-fiction organizations, Working Films in 1999 and Chicken & Egg Pictures in 2005, Over the last five years, she has produced, designed and moderated a range of intensive pitch training/storytelling workshops, first as part of her work as a Senior Creative Consultant with Chicken & Egg Pictures, and then for a range of film festivals and institutes including The Athena Film Festival, Double Exposure, The Jewish Film Institute, The March on Washington Film Festival and now the DC Environmental Film Festival’s first-ever Vantage Grant. Helfand’s awards include a 1997 peabody award, two Emmy nominations, a 2007 USA Artist fellowship and a 2019 SFJewish Film Festival Freedom of Expression Award. In 2016 she was invited to join the Documentary Branch of the Association of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences (aka The Oscars). Judith lives in NYC with her 8-year-old daughter Theo and their pandemic bunny [who’s not a goldendoodle] named COCO.

Helfand is a proud Senior Consulting Producer on Radioactive: The Women of Three Mile Island, which is having its DC premiere at DCEFF, Saturday March 25th at 7:00 pm.


2023 Program(s):

DCEFF Vantage Grant Pitch


Festival Year: 2023, 2019


COOKED: Survival by Zip Code

(US, 2018, 78min)
Special Guest: Judith Helfand