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My Name is Pauli Murray by Betsy West and Julie Cohen
My Name is Pauli Murray by Betsy West and Julie Cohen

My Name Is Pauli Murray directed by Betsy West and Julie Cohen (RBG) was voted the Audience Award winner of the 42nd annual Aspen Filmfest. The film made its world premiere at the 2021 Sundance Film Festival and will be released digitally on the Amazon platform October 1, 2021.

Told largely in Pauli’s own words, My Name is Pauli Murray is a candid recounting of her unique and extraordinary journey. Fifteen years before Rosa Parks refused to surrender her bus seat, a full decade before the U.S. Supreme Court overturned separate-but-equal legislation, Pauli Murray was already knee-deep fighting for social justice. A pioneering attorney, activist, priest and dedicated memoirist, Murray shaped and mark litigation — and consciousness—around race and gender equity. As an African American youth raised in the segregated South—who was also wrestling with broader notions of gender identity — Pauli understood, intrinsically, what it was to exist beyond previously accepted categories and cultural norms. Both Pauli’s personal path and tireless advocacy foreshadowed some of the most politically consequential issues of our time.

Filmmakers Betsy West and Julie Cohen commented, “Thank you, Aspen! We are honored to tell the story of Pauli Murray and are thrilled that audiences are excited to learn about an African American luminary who had such a profound and positive impact on our world.”

An Audience Special Mention was awarded to Bernstein’s Wall, directed by Douglas Tirola. Bernstein’s Wall follows Leonard Bernstein on his lifelong journey to define his role as one of America’s most important musical figures, while fighting to create social change and inspire political activism through his work. Told in Bernstein’s own voice and featuring never before seen archival footage, Douglas Tirola’s documentary is an intimate portrait of one of the 20th century’s most prominent icons, and his struggle to balance his complex personal life and groundbreaking career.

Bernstein’s Wall director Doug Tirola says, “Thank you to Aspen Filmfest for the opportunity to be a part of your festival and to share our film Bernstein’s Wall with your incredible audiences in a theater right in downtown Aspen. We are so grateful to be acknowledged with the Audience Award Special Mention. Thank you, Aspen.”

The festival, which ran from September 21-26, showcased a total of 15 notable fall films including local filmmaker Dirk Braun’s Flying Boat which had its world premiere film festival.

“The response to Aspen’s 42nd Filmfest was a resounding success despite navigating COVID protocols, restrictions and audience safety,” says Aspen Film Executive + Artistic Director Susan Wrubel. “This year, two meaningful, socially conscious, biographical documentaries took our Audience Award and Audience Special Mention Award – My Name Is Pauli Murray and Bernstein’s Wall, respectively. Aspen audiences certainly appreciate leaders who are independent by nature, fostering equality and social justice.”

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