Oscar nominated, Emmy and Peabody award-winning, film producer, director and writer Helen Whitney has been a prolific creator of documentaries and feature films. Her compelling subject matter has included topics such as youth gangs, presidential candidates, the McCarthy era, mental illness, Pope John Paul II, Great Britain’s class structure, homosexuality and photographer Richard Avedon. Among the actors she has worked with: Lindsay Crouse, Austin Pendleton, David Strathairn, Brenda Fricker, Teresa Wright, Estelle Parsons.
Throughout her career, she has maintained a deep interest in spiritual journeys, which she first explored with her documentary The Monastery, a 90-minute ABC special, about the oldest Trappist community in the Americas. Whitney followed this film with a three-hour Frontline documentary for PBS, John Paul II: The Millennial Pope, and in 2007 she produced The Mormons, a four-hour PBS series that explored the richness, complexities and controversies surrounding the Mormon faith. Following the Sept. 11 attacks, she produced Faith and Doubt at Ground Zero, a two-hour documentary that examined how religious belief – and unbelief – of Americans was challenged and altered by the spiritual aftershocks of 9/11. The film has been repeated numerous times since it first aired in 2002, and it was a PBS featured presentation on the 1st and on the 10th anniversary of the attacks.
One of Whitney’s recent works examines the power, limitations, and in rare cases, the dangers of forgiveness through emblematic stories ranging from personal betrayal to genocide. This film involved shooting throughout America, and such countries as South Africa, Germany, Rawanda, The three-hour series, Forgiveness: A time to Love and a Time to Hate, aired on PBS in 2011 and it also inspired Whitney to write a book of the same title, with a forward written by the Dalai Lama.
The filmmaker has also received an Academy Award nomination, the Humanitas Prize, Emmys, two DuPont-Columbia Journalism Awards and many other recognitions for her work. She is a Woodrow Wilson Fellow, and has presented her films and lectured at universities, museums and churches around the country (including Yale, Princeton, Harvard, Brigham Young, Stanford, the National Cathedral, the Corcoran Gallery, the Minneapolis Art Institute). She has also presented the endowed Luce Lecture at Boston University, The Lana Schwebel Memorial Lecture in Religion and Literature at Yale, and the William Belden Noble Lectures at Harvard University.