Raised in India, schooled at Harvard, and living in New York City, Mira Nair uses her natural grasp of identity conflict to make films that explore race, gender, inter-generational strife, cultural appropriation and displacement. A poignant speaker, she captures beautifully the tug of competing worlds felt by millions of immigrants around the world.
Nair’s latest film, Queen of Katwe, stars Academy Award-winning actress Lupita Nyong’o. The film centres on ten-year-old Ugandan chess prodigy Phiona Mutesi and her unlikely rise to fame as a Woman Candidate Master at the World Chess Olympiads. The New York Times named it a Critics’ Pick, raving, “If there is anyone out there capable of remaining unmoved by this true-life triumph-of-the-underdog sports story, I don’t think I want to meet that person.”
From her debut film, the Oscar-nominated Salaam Bombay!, to her Amelia Earhart biopic, Amelia, Mira Nair has established herself as one of the most formidable directors working today.
Nair makes films that are, according to Entertainment Weekly, “funny, rueful and sexy.” Salaam Bombay! won 25 international awards, including two at Cannes, for best first feature and most popular entry. Her other films include Mississippi Masala (with Denzel Washington), Vanity Fair (with Reese Witherspoon), The Namesake (with Kal Penn), and Monsoon Wedding, which Roger Ebert called “one of those joyous films that leaps over national boundaries and celebrates universal human nature.”
Nair’s film The Reluctant Fundamentalist made its North American debut at the 2012 Toronto International Film Festival. The film is an international political thriller that follows a young Pakistani man chasing corporate success on Wall Street. He finds himself embroiled in a conflict of his American dream, a hostage crisis and the call of his homeland.
Her film Amelia, starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere, sparked a fresh wave of interest in one of America's first (and most enduring) celebrities and proto-feminists, Amelia Earhart.
Away from the camera, Nair has mentored as part of the Rolex Protege Arts Initiative and her company, Mirabai films, established a non-profit, Maisha, in support of screenwriters and directors in East Africa and South Asia.