'Phyllis: A Self Portrait' is a Finalist for the 2022 MY HERO Film Festival

by Natalia Osuna, MY HERO Intern from United States

August 30, 2022



Phyllis: A Self Portrait is a Finalist for the 2022 MY HERO Film Festival



Natalia Osuna

Staff Writer


[email protected]



149105From left to right, Phyllis Thelen and film director, Harris CohenHarris Cohen, with permission

Director and producer Harris Cohen is a finalist for the 2022 MY HERO Film Festival for his film Phyllis: A Self Portrait, an inspirational short documentary film featuring a driven, multi-talented woman who is passionate about transforming her community.  The filmmaker describes the protagonist of Phyllis: A Self Portrait as “a charming dynamo of a woman.” Artist and activist, Phyllis Thelen is the founder of Art Works Downtown, Marin Ballet, and Youth Arts––all organizations that promote service and the arts in San Rafael CA. In 2003, filmmaker Harris Cohen began to work with Phyllis Thelen when she hired him to do pro bono work for a promotional and fundraising video for her organization, Art Works Downtown. During that time, the two artists connected with each other as they both shared a common purpose: to create positive change in the art world. In an interview, Cohen told MY HERO that when this project began, he was 83 years old, wanting to put his energy into use when “bigger than life Phyllis came to mind. She stood out as an ideal profile subject.” 

In the film, one of Phyllis’ daughters, Nancy Thelen Rehkop, says “I love thinking about my mother’s trajectory in art because she never stayed in one place. She continually expanded her ability.” Then, Phyllis herself states, “There’s something about putting your soul into it [one’s art] that people feel when they look at artwork.” Her children describe that 9/11 pushed Phyllis to begin to include political statements in her art. One of her staple pieces is the recreation of the Twin Towers on 9/11 out of newspaper clippings of the coverage of the event.

After that, Phyllis began creating small statues that became sanctuaries for “people to go and feel safe, feel good.” Through these ideas, Phyllis’ art now focuses on providing peace, transformation, and connection.

'Phyllis: A Self Portrait' perfectly captures Phyllis’ essence, and depicts her ability to pursue a career as a visual artist and found several philanthropist organizations along with her husband––all while raising four children. When asked what he hopes to transmit to his audience with his work, Cohen passionately stated “I, like Phyllis, hope to use my life experience, to do some good and spread inspiration in the world.” Watch the film to witness this incredible collaboration between two change-making creatives, and view a dedicated female leader transforming her community. 

 To learn more about Phyllis and her art: ​​

To see the film:

 For more details about MY HERO’s International Film Festival, please visit: /festival-information 

 Phyllis: A Self Portrait Film Credits: 

Harris Cohen, Director/Producer

Elaine G. Trotter, Editor

Michael Anderson, Videographer

Adam Neville, Videographer

Scott Stender, Videographer

S. Kramer Herzog, Videographer

Andy Neddermeyer, Technical Director

Radhika Miller, Music

About MY HERO International Film Festival

The MY HERO International Film Festival brings together professional and youth filmmakers who honor local and global heroes working for positive change in the world.  Thanks to generous sponsors, prizes are awarded to elementary, middle school, high school, college and professionals in a variety of categories including documentary, narrative, music video, animation, experimental, and more.

To view the 2021 award-winning films, go to Winners

Call for Entries  Deadline October 1st for 2022 or submit for 2023

To find out more go to:

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The MY HERO Project is an international nonprofit learning and storytelling platform that uses media, art and technology to shine a light on positive role models to help students of all ages realize their own potential to make positive change in the world. 

Page created on 8/31/2022 12:11:12 AM

Last edited 9/1/2022 9:11:19 AM

The beliefs, viewpoints and opinions expressed in this hero submission on the website are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the beliefs, viewpoints and opinions of The MY HERO Project and its staff.