October 2009: Julia Parker Benello '88


Julia (“Julie”) Parker Benello ’88’s professional career is a unique hybrid of social-change media making, donor activism, and international development work. In 2005, Julie co-founded Chicken & Egg Pictures, a non-profit organization that matches money and mentorship to support women documentary filmmakers who use their storytelling skills to address the global justice issues of our time. Films of note include Lioness, Freeheld, and Garbage Dreams.

Benello, who attended Barnard College, began her documentary career in 1994 as a researcher on Walter Cronkite’s eight-hour television autobiography, Cronkite Remembers. From there she went on to work as a production executive for the distribution company Non Fiction Films and then as producer of the 1999 documentary Prostate Cancer: A Journey of Hope, which aired nationally on PBS.

Perhaps best known for producing the two-time Emmy-nominated, HBO feature documentary Blue Vinyl, Benello explored the impact of the vinyl industry on the environment. The film won numerous awards, including the Documentary Award for Excellence in Cinematography at the 2002 Sundance Film Festival, the Best Documentary Award at the 2002 Bermuda Film Festival, the Audience Award at the Philadelphia Festival of World Cinema, the Audience Award at the 2002 Santa Cruz International Film Festival, and Dwell Magazine’s Nice Modernists Award for 2002. The Environmental Grantmakers Association selected Blue Vinyl and Working Films (a national, nonprofit organization linking non-fiction film with cutting edge activism) for the 2002 Environmental Messenger of the Year Award. Benello also served as the Bay Area coordinator for the My House is Your House consumer-organizing and audience-engagement campaign associated with the film.

Benello has served on several boards, including those of Working Films and the Third Wave Foundation. For the past five years she has served on the board of the Center for Environmental Health (CEH) based in Oakland, California, which protects people from toxic chemicals and promotes business products and practices that are safe for public health and the environment.

Concurrent with filmmaking, Julie has maintained a long-term commitment to addressing global justice and women and girls’ human rights. Fresh from Barnard College, she worked for the Population Council in Dakar, Senegal, and later worked with the NGO Forum that coordinated the 1994 United Nations Population and Development Conference in Cairo, Egypt. She is a recent board member of the Global Fund for Women, an international network of women and men committed to a world of equality and social justice. The Global Fund advocates for and defends women's human rights by making grants to support women's groups around the world.

Benello was a recipient of the Hotchkiss Community Service Award in 1999, and in 2002 she participated in the Media Day “Dreammakers” panel. She and her husband, Allen Benello, live in San Francisco with their two daughters.

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