Born in Uganda, educated in Ireland, Swaziland and South Africa, Murphy has BA (English, Drama, 1979)and Honours degree (English, 1991) from the University of Cape Town.
Murphy first made a 12 minute film (standard 8mm) as a dissertation for her BA degree in 1979. Moving to London in 1981, she entered the film industry working in editing rooms (BBC and independents).
Returning to South Africa in 1986, she co-wrote, co-produced and edited the feature film An African Dream (1987-1988) raising an unprecedented R5 million for the production.
Between 1990 and 1993 Murphy worked on various film festivals (Cape Town IFF, Grahamstown National Arts Festival, Weekly Mail, Film & Allied Workers Organisation), co-founded a small production and distribution company (Big World Cinema) and established the first internet café in South Africa, the iCafe. In 1992 Murphy co-directed and co-produced the documentary Black Sash: The Early Years.
In 1994 she co-founded the Out In Africa (OIA) South African Gay & Lesbian Film Festival, and has held the position of Director to this day. The Festival has always operated simultaneously in multiple cities (variously Cape Town, Johannesburg, Bloemfontein, Durban, Pretoria and Durban). In 2004 she established the Satellite Film Festivals, usually between 4 and 5 annually, run in small cities and towns the length and breadth of South Africa (Potchefstroom, Grahamstown, Pietermaritzburg, George, Ermelo, Mafikeng, Kimberley, East London and Port Elizabeth). OIA was the first Festival in South Africa to make use of digital projection, in 2000. OIA assisted with the development of regional LGBTI festivals, including the Batho ba Lorato in Botswana.
Murphy raised funds for, and ran numerous filmmaking workshops for OIA, and was the Executive Producer on 22 short films – including the first 15′ film by the photographer Zanele Muholi. OIA films have screened at 87 international film festivals.
In 1999 Murphy co-founded the Encounters South African International Documentary Festival, and was the co-director for the first 8 years. In that time Murphy co-produced numerous scriptwriting workshops, securing commissions from local broadcasters, which resulted in the production of 22 films of between 25 and 60 minutes. In all, Murphy has co-Executive Producer 26 documentaries for Encounters.
Between 2003-2006 Encounters ran programming and exhibition operations for the Sithengi Film and Television Market and Festival in Cape Town. Encounters developed and ran the Co-Production Forum in 2003 and 2004.
In 2005 Encounters launched Encontros Maputo the first documentary festival in Maputo, Mozambique. Between 2006-2010 Encounters partnered with MIPDOC in the Trailblazer Awards, and was responsible for the nomination of African award winners. Murphy presented two of the African Trailblazers in Cannes.
Murphy has served on the 2006 IDFA Silver Wolf Jury, and the 2006 Berlinale Teddy Jury.
Murphy has sat on panel and made presentation at University of Turin (2009); the Vtape Queer Here/Queer Now Symposium, University of Toronto (May 2008); an international workshop on the LGBTQ festivals, Concordia University, Montreal ( November 2007); and the Gender Studies department of the University of Naples (December 2007.
Murphy curated and presented a programme of 20 South African Gay and Lesbian films for the 2nd Africala film festival, Mexico City, April 2008. Murphy was appointed Overall Chair of the 2013 7th South African Film and television Awards (SAFTAs).