Women in Film: Mehta, Deepa–Director of Fire, Earth

Deepa Mehta was born in India and received a degree in philosophy from the University of New Delhi.

In 1991, Mehta produced and directed her first feature film, “Sam & Me,” the poignant story of an unlikely friendship between two outcasts who form a deep and permanent bond despite the fact that neither is welcome in the other’s world. The film won Honorable Mention by the Critics in the prestigious Camera D’Or category in the 1991 Cannes Film Festival.

In 1992, she directed a one-hour episode of the “Young Indiana Jones Chronicles,” produced by George Lucas for ABC television and filmed on location in Benares, India.

In 1993, Mehta directed her second feature film, “Camilla,” a Canadian-UK co-production starring Jessica Tandy, Bridget Fonda, Elias Koteas, Maury Chaykin, Graham Greene and Hume Cronyn. She went on to direct the final episode of “Young Indiana Jones Chronicles” in 1994, shooting on location in Prague and Greece.

“Fire,” Mehta’s third feature film, based on an original screenplay, was written, directed and produced by Mehta. “Fire” opened the Perspective Canada Program at the 1996 Toronto Film Fest, where it tied with “Fly Away Home” for the Air Canada Peoples Choice Award.

It was one of 29 films selected from over 1,400 entries worldwide for the prestigious New York Film Festival. At the Vancouver International Film Festival “Fire” won the Federal Express Award for Best Canadian Film as chosen by the audience. At the Chicago International Film Festival it won two Silver Hugo Awards for Best Direction and Best Actress. In Mannheim the film won the Jury Award and in Paris it was voted Favorite Foreign Film. FIRE has currently been sold to 30 countries and had its North American release on August 22, 1997, followed by releases in Europe, Australia and India in September 1997.

“Earth,” based on Bapsi Sidhwa’s critically acclaimed novel, Cracking India, is the second film in Mehta’s trilogy of the elements. “Earth” was shot in New Delhi, India, in January of 1998, and had its World Premiere as a Special Presentation at the 1998 Toronto Film Festival where it was received with a standing ovation and critical acclaim. The film won the Prix Premiere du Public at the Festival du film Asiatique de Deauville, France in March 1999 and the Critics’ Award at the Schermi d’Amore International Film Festival, Italy, in April of the same year.

Currently, “Earth” has been sold to 22 countries and was selected by the Film Federation of India as India’s nomination for consideration for an Academy Award in the category of Best Foreign Language Film.

Mehtas fifth film, “Bollyhood Hollywood,” opened the Perspective Canada Program at the 2002 Toronto International Film Festival and has remained in the top 10 grossing English movies since its Canadian opening on October 25, 2002.

In 2003, Mehta co-wrote and directed “Republic of Love,” based on the novel of the same title by the world-renowned author Carol Shields, starring Bruce Greenwood and Amelia Fox. In the same year, Mehta won the prestigious CineAsia Best Director Award.