Coffee With…Raphaela Neihausen, Festival Director of Montclair Film Festival


Raphaela NeihausenDespite being knee-deep in the Montclair Film Festival, which debuts its second year on April 29, Raphaela Neihausen, made time to have coffee with me at Red Eye Cafe this week.

Raphaela Neihausen is one half of the festival director team, along with her husband Thom Powers. Born in New York, raised in Toronto, traveled the world,  back to New York and now in Montclair—Raphaela is happy to call our town her home with Thom and their three year old son Bez.

Talking to Raphaela, you start feeling as if she’s an old friend—a BFF you’ve known forever. She’s warm, charming, and funny. And I found it difficult to focus on interview questions, instead of just chatting like two friends over coffee. But I managed to get some questions in.

Raphaela NeihausenRaphaela had a high powered career as a senior associate management consultant, but always had a passion for film. She produced a documentary film called Miss Gulag, which looks at the lives of the first generation of women to come of age in post-Soviet Russia. The topic was near to her heart. Her parents fled Communist Russia and came to America to have a better life. While at the 2007 Berlin Film Festival promoting the film, she met Thom Powers, who had an established career in documentary production, directing, programmer for the Toronto Film Festival, among other things. Long story short— after meeting in Berlin six years ago—they were married at Toronto’s Eglinton Grand movie theater by a rabbi named Goldfinger (Can you love film more than that?), founded PowersHausen, a company that specializes in film festival curation and production with main projects of Stranger Than Fiction, DOC NYC and now the Montclair Film Festival, had a child and bought a home in Montclair.

Baristanet: How did you end up as festival directors of the Montclair Film Festival?
Raphaela: We interviewed for the position in the fall of 2011 after Thom suggested we take on the project. We were given the job with only five months to its launch date.

B: You’ve worked on festivals in Toronto, Miami, New York… Were you a bit nervous working on a new festival in a suburban town like Montclair?
R: At first yes. But we quickly became impressed with the people involved and the community.

B: I think it’s safe to say that Montclair warmly embraced the festival last year. This year’s festival has doubled, with more offerings for all ages. What are you most proud of?
R: The rare opportunity to screen the 1950 Disney’s Cinderella on the big screen, representing  African-American filmmakers and films (including our Free Panel on Race & Film), and our new sections “Music on Film“, “Culinary Cinema” and “Movie Love.” I’m so proud of our line up this year. I’m also proud that the number of volunteers from the first festival, which was around 250, has doubled.

B: What would you love to see for next year’s festival?
R: Well if Thom decides to double it again, I may leave him! But seriously, it’s hard to say, as I’m really happy with what we did this year. Perhaps making the festival longer, with two weekends.

B: Now on to some local love. What’s your favorite restaurant in town?
R: This is hard! I’d have to say I’ve been loving Uncle Moustache.

B: Best Coffee?
R: Dylan at Whole Foods Montclair’s Coffee Bar, because I show up and he knows exactly how I like it.

B: Favorite Store?
R: Too many to chose one! I’ve recently discovered Gallery Loupe, after they generously lent the members of MFF’s benefit committee their pieces for our Oscar Party. They carry a changing selection of jewelry from local artists. I also love  Montclair Book Center. And after friends recommendations, I’ve become a fan of Rosario’s for meat and The Pie Store, whose Mixed Berry Pie is delicious.

B: Any other shout outs?
R: I started doing yoga at Yogadesha and I’m hooked. A few friends and I get together to take a class with Kerri McClain. And, of course, the Clairidge for it’s wonderful selection of films.

B: Speaking of films, what’s your favorite?
R: From my childhood, it’s Annie. Other than that, I’d have to say Cinema ParadisoBlade Runner, and Let’s Get Lost!.

 (Photo credit: Cathryne Czubek)

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