2012 Lifetime Artistic Achievement (Film)
Award-winning director and screenwriter Deepa Mehta is one of Canada’s most influential and respected filmmakers. She has been described as a “transnational” artist, able to tell universally meaningful stories from a uniquely Canadian point of view. In a career spanning over 30 years she has consistently broken new ground, tackling such controversial issues as intolerance, cultural discrimination and domestic violence. Best known for her elemental trilogy (Fire, Earth, and Water), she is an artist of uncompromising integrity whose exceptional creative achievement is matched by her contribution to human rights, social issues, and diversity within Canada and around the world.
Ms. Mehta was born in Amritsar, India, and moved to Canada after completing a degree in philosophy at the University of Delhi.
At the core of her work are her vast interest in and compassion for people of all cultural and social backgrounds. Her career ranges widely, from her first feature, Sam and Me (1991, Special Jury Mention, Caméra d’Or section at Cannes) to the elemental trilogy; from the light-hearted comedy Bollywood/Hollywood to her ambitious adaptation of Salman Rushdie’s novel Midnight’s Children. Her films have played at major international film festivals, won numerous awards, and been distributed in over 50 countries.
Her courage as a filmmaker and human rights advocate has occasionally exposed her to danger: cinemas in India were burned when her movie Fire was released in 1996, and production of Water was delayed for four years after mobs of fundamentalist extremists terrorized the film production, destroyed the sets, and issued death threats against Ms. Mehta and the actors. When finally completed, Water was nominated for nine Genies (winning three) and an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film.
She serves on the board of the Canadian Civil Liberties Association and the Toronto International Film Festival, and on the Minister’s Advisory Council for Arts and Culture (Ontario Ministry of Tourism, Culture and Sport).
Awards and honours include the CineAsia Best Director Award (2003); Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Language Film (2007 Academy Awards); YWCA Women of Distinction Award (2008); Canadian Civil Liberties Association Excellence in the Arts Award (2011); Canadian Centre for Diversity Life of Distinction Award (2011); Indian International Film Awards Global Leadership Award (2011); named one of Canada’s Top 100 most powerful women (Women’s Executive Network, 2011); honorary doctorates from five Canadian universities.