Ford Foundation

Indian American filmmaker Mira Nair is among 25 artists and cultural leaders who have been selected for Art of Change Fellowships by the Ford Foundation. (Jeff Spicer/Getty Images for Disney)

Believing that today, in the face of growing intolerance and widening inequality, the arts have the power to transform how people see and understand each other, and the world around them, the Ford Foundation has announced 25 new Art of Change Fellowships, and among the Fellows is Indian American filmmaker Mira Nair.

The Art of Change Fellowships will support visionary artists and cultural leaders in creating powerful works of art that help advance freedom, justice, and inclusion, and strengthen democracy.

Born and raised in Rourkela, India, Nair went on to study at Delhi and Harvard Universities. She began as an actress before segueing into documentary filmmaking. Her narrative feature debut, “Salaam Bombay!” (1988), won the Caméra d’Or and was nominated for an Academy Award for the ‘Best Foreign Language Film.’

Noting that Nair is a “resourceful and determined independent filmmaker who casts unknowns alongside Hollywood stars,” the foundation goes on to name some of her best works, “Mississippi Masala” (1991), “The Perez Family” (1995), “Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love” (1996), “Hysterical Blindness” (2002), “Vanity Fair” (2004), “The Namesake” (2006), “Amelia” (2009), and “The Reluctant Fundamentalist” (2012).

Nair’s most recent film, “Queen of Katwe” (2016), starring Lupita Nyong’o and David Oyelowo, is based on the true story of the Ugandan chess prodigy, Phiona Mutesi.

Nair’s acclaimed film, “Monsoon Wedding” (2001), was recently brought to the California-based Berkeley Repertory Theatre as a musical, where it completed an extended, sold-out run this past summer.

A longtime activist, in 1998, the foundation observes that Nair, also a Padma Bhushan awardee, used the profits from “Salaam Bombay!” to create the Salaam Baalak Trust, which works with street children in India. In 2005, she established the Maisha Film Lab in Kampala, Uganda, a non-profit training initiative for emerging East African filmmakers. 

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