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Biography

Maxi Cohen is an award-winning artist and filmmaker based in New York City. Her films, photographs and multimedia installations have been exhibited internationally and are in the permanent collections of numerous museums, including the Museum of Modern Art, New York, the Whitney Museum for American Art, New York, the Museum of Fine Arts, Houston, the Israel Museum, Jerusalem, and the National Gallery of Canada, Ottawa. Her films have played in movie theaters, film festivals and television around the world.



After graduating from New York University, Cohen directed and produced a weekly television series called Are You There? in Cape May, New Jersey, that was cited as the “first example of community interactive television” by the National Cable Television Association. The project was her first media for social change experiment. Helping reverse the town’s demise and establishing it as one of four landmarked towns in the country, Cohen’s series impacted the social, cultural and economic future of Cape May.



In New York City, she became the director of the first public access facility in the country, as part of the Alternate Media Center. At the same time, she set up the distribution system of Electronic Arts Intermix, now the largest distributor of video art in the world. She co-founded the Independent Feature Project, representing feature filmmakers nationally, and First Run Features, the first company devoted to distributing American independent films.

When she was 23, Cohen directed and produced Joe and Maxi, a feature-length documentary about her relationship with her father. That film, which premiered at the Berlin Film Festival and was theatrically released in 1980, is now in the Museum of Modern Art archives. Known for its groundbreaking intimate form and content, which influenced two generations of documentary filmmakers, Joe and Maxi was awarded a preservation grant for its 35mm print by the NYWIFT Preservation Fund. She participated in the omnibus feature film, Seven Women Seven Sins, in which seven internationally acclaimed directors re-interpreted the seven deadly sins. For the sin of Anger, Cohen interviewed people who answered an advertisement she placed in the Village Voice. The film won first prize in festivals in Tokyo and Montreal. She then went on to produce the feature for theatrical release in the U.S.

In response to the Los Angeles riots of 1992, Cohen directed and produced South Central Los Angeles: Inside Voices, filmed by African Americans, Latinos and Korean Americans who lived in the areas most affected by the fires, vandalism and violence of the riots, to learn about the depths of racism from a firsthand perspective. The documentary was the first film made about racism that included diverse factions and was the first made by real people. South Central Los Angeles: Inside Voices made its American premiere on Showtime, and in Europe on France’s ARTE and Germany’s ZDF. In 1994, ZDF named it “Best Documentary in Series” for that year.



In response to governments internationally misunderstanding ayahuasca, Cohen directed and produced The Holy Give Me. The film centers around the Santo Daime, a church emanating from Brazil that drinks this sacrament for healing and communing with the Divine. 


Cohen most recently executive produced From Shock to Awe, the story of suicidal veterans who recover from PTSD with ayahuasca and MDMA to be theatrically released in 2018.



Cohen’s television work includes short films produced for Saturday Night Live, the Comedy Channel, MTV Networks, PBS, Children’s Television Workshop, and Fox Broadcasting, ARTE, in addition to developing series for the BBC, CPB, HBO and Turner.



She has created several decades-long series of photography, multimedia and installation works including Specimens from the Amazon, The Art of the Pendulum, Ladies Rooms Around the World, TV Nightscapes, and more. Currently, she is developing A Movement in Water, a public art installation intended to increase reverence for water and shift physiology.



Maxi Cohen has been supported by grants from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Rockefeller Foundation, Annenberg Foundation, New York State Council on the Arts, Karan Weiss Foundation, Jerome Foundation, among others.