Deepa Mehta is a transnational artist and a screenwriter, director, and producer whose work has been called “courageous”, “provocative” and “breathtaking”. Her visually lush and emotionally resonating films have played at every major international film festival; receiving numerous awards and accolades, and have been distributed around the world. Deepa was born in India and received a degree in philosophy from the University of New Delhi before immigrating to Canada. She began her career making documentaries in India. After a disrupted and hazardous production history Deepa’s final film in the Elemental Trilogy Water opened the 2005 Toronto International Film Festival, and was the first Canadian film acquired by US distributor Fox Searchlight.
Water is a powerful, hauntingly tragic story, set in Benares (Varanasi) about a child widow who at the age of eight is forced to enter a house of widows where she has to live for the rest of her life. The movie was to have been shot in India in 2000, but Hindu fundamentalists fomented riots, burnt sets, and issued death threats against the director and actors, forcing production to shut down and the filmmakers to leave the country. Water was successfully remounted in Sri Lanka and completed shooting in June 2004, and features many of India’s most renowned actors. Water was an enormous success. It was nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film at the 79th Annual Academy Awards, and has screened at festivals around the world, winning many awards, and remains an audience favourite.
The Vancouver Film Critics Circle named Deepa Mehta the Best Canadian Director of 2006. This fall (2015) is the 10th anniversary of Water’s launch.Deepa’s work as an artist, as a progressive voice about social issues, and her generous mentorship have often been recognized. She has received numerous honorary degrees and many awards and honours, among them: The Life of Distinction Award from the Canadian Centre of Diversity, The Excellence in the Arts Award from the Canadian Civil Liberties Association, and the Woman of Distinction, President’s Award from the YMCA. She is a recipient of the Governor General’s Lifetime Artistic Achievement Award for Film. Most recently, in 2013, Deepa was appointed as an officer to the Order of Canada, Canada’s highest civilian honour, for her work as a “groundbreaking screenwriter, director, and producer.” She is also a recipient of the province of Ontario’s highest honour, the Order of Ontario.