Sikh Art & Film Foundation

September 19, 2009 at 7pm | Cipriani | 55 Wall Street, New York, NY 10005

Mira Nair - Guest of Honor

Accomplished Film Director/Writer/Producer Mira Nair was born in Bhubaneswar, India in 1957. Educated at both Delhi University and Harvard University, Nair began her artistic career as an actor before turning her attention to film. She found incipient success as a documentary filmmaker, winning awards for So Far From India and India Cabaret. In 1988, Nair’s debut feature, Salaam Bombay!, was nominated for an Academy Award, Golden Globe, and BAFTA Award for Best Foreign Language Film. It also won the Camera D'Or (for best first feature) and the Prix du Publique (for most popular entry) at the Cannes Film Festival as well as 25 other international awards.  

Nair’s next film, Mississippi Masala, an interracial love story set in the American South and Uganda, starring Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury, won three awards at the Venice Film Festival including Best Screenplay and The Audience Choice Award.  Subsequent films include The Perez Family (with Marisa Tomei, Anjelica Huston, Alfred Molina and Chazz Palminteri), about an exiled Cuban family in Miami; and the sensuous Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love, which she directed and co-wrote.

Nair directed My Own Country based on Dr. Abraham Verghese's best-selling memoir about a young immigrant doctor dealing with the AIDS epidemic. Made in 1998, My Own Country starred Naveen Andrews, Glenne Headly, Marisa Tomei, Swoosie Kurtz, and Hal Holbrook, and was awarded the NAACP award for best fiction feature.

Nair returned to the documentary form in August 1999 with The Laughing Club of India, which was awarded The Special Jury Prize in the Festival International de Programmes Audiovisuels 2000.

In the summer of 2000, Nair shot Monsoon Wedding in 30 days, a story of a Punjabi wedding starring Naseeruddin Shah and an ensemble of Indian actors. The film opened to tremendous critical acclaim and commercial success and went on to win the Golden Lion at the 2001 Venice Film Festival and receive Golden Globe and BAFTA nominations for Best Foreign Language Film.

Nair’s next film, Hysterical Blindness, gave HBO its highest original film ratings in three years. Set in working class New Jersey in 1987, the film stars Uma Thurman, Juliette Lewis, Gena Rowlands, and Ben Gazarra. Over 15 million viewers watched Blindness on HBO and critics recognized the film with a Golden Globe for Uma Thurman and three Emmy Awards (including Best Supporting Actress for Rowlands and Best Supporting Actor for Gazarra).

Following the tragic events of September 11, 2001, Nair joined a group of 11 renowned filmmakers, each commissioned to direct a film that was 11 minutes, 9 seconds and one frame long. Nair’s film is a retelling of real events in the life of the Hamdani family in Queens, whose eldest son was missing after September 11, and was then accused by the media of being a terrorist. 11.09.01 is the true story of a mother's search for her son who did not return home on that fateful day.

In 2003, Nair produced “Still the Children Are Here,” an intimate documentary by Dinaz Stafford about the Garo peoples of Meghalaya, India.

In May 2003, Nair directed the Focus Features production of the William Thackeray classic, Vanity Fair, a provocative period tale set in Georgian England, filmed entirely on location in the UK and India. Reese Witherspoon stars as Becky Sharp, a woman who defies her poverty-stricken background to clamber up the social ladder; Jim Broadbent, Bob Hoskins, Eileen Atkins, Gabriel Byrne, and Rhys Ifans round up the stellar ensemble cast.

Nair was appointed as the mentor in film by the prestigious Rolex Protégé Arts Initiative, joining fellow mentors Jessye Norman, Sir Peter Hall, David Hockney, Mario Vargas Llosa, and Saburo Teshigawara to help guide young artists in critical stages of their development.

In 2005, Mira Nair adapted and directed Jhumpa Lahiri's The Namesake with Fox Searchlight, which premiered in theatres worldwide to rave reviews in March 2007. In January 2007, Ms. Nair directed Migration, one of four short films by acclaimed Indian film directors, to raise awareness about the AIDS epidemic in India. Migration will open as part of the four film series, AIDS JAAGO, at the 2007 Toronto International Film Festival. Next up, Nair is slated to direct Shantaram with Warner Brothers, starring Johnny Depp later this year.

In addition, Mirabai Films has established an annual filmmaker’s laboratory, Maisha, which is dedicated to the support of visionary screenwriters and directors in East Africa and South Asia. The first lab, which is focus on screenwriting, was launched in August 2005 in Kampala, Uganda.

Nair currently lives in New York City with her husband and son.



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