A discussion was held with the film director, Mira Nair, about her work and new film, “The Queen of Katwe” at the CHR on 20 August 2016. CHR academic staff, film studies students, fellows and invited guests contributed to an engaging and fascinating conversation about film theory and practice within the context of Mira Nair’s films.
Watch the trailer now:
Mira Nair is an Indian American filmmaker based in New York.
At the start of her film-making career, Nair primarily made documentaries in which she explored Indian cultural tradition. For her film thesis at Harvard between 1978 and 1979, Nair produced a black-and-white film entitled Jama Masjid Street Journal. In the eighteen-minute film, Nair explores the streets of Old Delhi and has casual conversations with Indian locals. In 1982, she made her second documentary entitled So Far from India, which is a fifty-two-minute film that followed an Indian newspaper dealer living in the subways of New York, while his pregnant wife waited for him to return home. This film was recognized as a Best Documentary winner at the American Film Festival and New York’s Global Village Film Festival. In her third documentary, India Cabaret, released in 1984, Nair pushed boundaries and produced her most controversial film, in which she reveals the exploitation of female strippers that populate Bombay, and also follows a male customer who regularly visits a local strip club while his wife stays at home. Raising roughly $130,000 for the project, the fifty-nine-minute film was shot over a span of two months.
Thereafter she has focused on feature films. Among her best known films are Mississippi Masala, The Namesake, the Golden Lion-winning Monsoon Wedding and Salaam Bombay! which was nominated for an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language Film. In 2012 Nair directed The Reluctant Fundamentalist, a thriller based on the best-selling novel by Mohsin Hamid. It opened the 2012 Venice Film Festival to critical acclaim, and was released worldwide in early 2013. A long time activist, Nair set up an annual film-makers’ laboratory, Maisha Film Lab in Kampala, Uganda. Since 2005, young directors in East Africa have been trained at this non-profit facility with the belief that “If we don’t tell our stories, no one else will”. Maisha is currently building a film school in Kampala with Architect Raul Pantaleo, winner of Aga Khan Award for Architecture.