Ifeyinwa Arinze

2022 HEAR US Awardee
Graduate Film Class of 2022

Ifeyinwa Arinze

Ifeyinwa Arinze is a neuroscientist-turned-filmmaker from Nigeria and is currently based in New York City. Her work often highlights Black female relationships and intimacy through a myriad of lenses. She is an MFA candidate in the Graduate Film program at NYU Tisch.

Ifeyinwa has been selected as one of the inaugural recipients of the Kyoko Arai Fund, a gift made possible by Kyoko and Yuki Arai (NYU Stern '10, MBA), who hope to encourage diverse voices and stories in the film industry.


Ph.D.ing While Black

I worked as a laboratory and clinical researcher for five years prior to my current training as a filmmaker at NYU Grad Film. While working, I witnessed the research activity of PhD students across multiple academic departments. There were often only a handful of Black female students in these spaces. They tended to be either the only one in their cohort or sometimes their entire department. I became friends with a few of them, and noticed the burden that came with being the only one in such a rigorous environment. Since leaving that field, their experiences have continued to pulse within me.

Ph.D.ing While Black is an intimate and lyrical short documentary about three Black female Ph.D. students, how they navigate predominantly white academic institutions and their access, or lack thereof, to support systems. The focus of this project is to complicate society’s understanding of Black women by showcasing them in their strengths and vulnerabilities, as well as their nuanced experiences of their doctoral programs. This project asks: when the expectation is to be persistently strong, where can one go to be soft?

The approach of Ph.D.ing While Black will be multifaceted to convey the complexity of the subjects and allow for a tenderness that is rarely afforded to Black women. It will be composed of filmed interviews, archival, and verité footage. The subjects will be diverse in terms of age, experience, background, academic research and program in order to express the breadth of the Black female experience in doctoral programs.

This hybrid short documentary is a story about the persistence, wellbeing and performance of Black women pursuing the highest level of academic scholarship.