7:00 p.m., Thursday, April 22, 2010
Mira Nair is the rare, prolific filmmaker who fluidly moves between Hollywood and independent cinema. After several years of making documentary films, Mira Nair made a stunning entry on to the world stage with her first feature, SALAAM BOMBAY! (1988), now hailed as a classic. The film received more than 25 international awards, including an Academy Award Nomination for Best Foreign Film, BAFTA, and the Camera D’Or (for best first feature) and Prix du Publique (for most popular entry) at the Cannes Film Festival in 1988.
In the following decade, Nair directed four features: MISSISSIPPI MASALA (1991), THE PEREZ FAMILY (1995), KAMA SUTRA: A TALE of LOVE (1996), and MY OWN COUNTRY (1998). In 2001, Nair's MONSOON WEDDING won the Golden Lion at the Venice Film Festival and was nominated for a Golden Globe and a BAFTA, becoming one of the highest grossing foreign films of all time. In 2002, Nair directed HYSTERICAL BLINDNESS for HBO which gave the channel its highest original film ratings ever, winning a Golden Globe for star Uma Thurman, and 3 Emmy Awards for Gena Rowlands, Ben Gazzara and design. In 2004, Nair directed Reese Witherspoon as Becky Sharp in Focus Features' stunning adaptation of Thackeray's VANITY FAIR. A year later, Nair's adaptation of Jhumpa Lahiri's bestselling novel THE NAMESAKE became another critical and commercial success for the director. Her latest film, Amelia, starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere, has sparked a fresh wave of interest in one of America's first (and most enduring) celebrities and proto-feminists, Amelia Earhart.
A long time activist, Nair divides her energies between filmmaking and her two successful non-profit organisations. In 1988 she used the profits of SALAAM BOMBAY! to create the Salaam Baalak Trust which has directly impacted government policy on streetchildren in India. 20 years later, the trust’s 25 centers provide a safe and nurturing environment for 5000 street children annually. In 2005 Nair founded Maisha, a filmmakers' training program based in East Africa. In its 5 years of operation, Maisha has trained hundreds of students from Uganda, Kenya, Rwanda and Tanzania in screenwriting, directing, producing, acting, sound design, editing, and cinematography.
Equally committed to the short film form, Nair has directed six films, all of which are included on the Criterion Collection's forthcoming compilation of her work. Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Mira joined a group of eleven renowned filmmakers; her film is a retelling of a true story of a mother’s search for her son who did not return home on that fateful day. In 2007 Nair's New York based production company, Mirabai Films, produced AIDS JAAGO, a series of 4 short films made by India's cutting-edge directors and stars. The series, designed to help de-stigmatize AIDS in India, has been seen by over 2 million viewers worldwide. Nair's own short film for the series, called MIGRATION, deals with AIDS as the class leveler in society by following its transmission through interweaving stories linking rural and urban India. Nair also directed a segment of the feature film '8' as one of eight directors each creating a short film to address a different Millienium Development Goal. Her film,"How Can It Be" deals with gender equality. "Kosher Vegetarian", Mira's segment of the feature film NEW YORK, I LOVE YOU, stars Natalie Portman and Irrfan Khan.
After the release of AMELIA, Ms. Nair has returned to the theatre from where she started, directing a spectacular musical on Broadway based on her beloved film, MONSOON WEDDING. Her forthcoming feature will be an adaptation of Mohsin Hamid's bestselling novel, THE RELUCTANT FUNDAMENTALIST, to be filmed in New York, Pakistan and Chile in 2010.
Mira Nair was born in India and educated at both Delhi University and Harvard. She currently lives in New York City and Kampala, Uganda with her husband and son.