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If we don’t tell our own stories, no one else will

Board Of Directors

Mira Nair

Mira Nair“Toofani”, Hindi for “whirlwind”, is an apt nickname for internationally acclaimed Indian director, screenwriter and producer Mira Nair who is known for her visually dense films that pulsate with life.

Nair is the rare prolific filmmaker who fluidly moves between Hollywood and Independent Cinema. After several years of making documentary films, Mira Nair made a stunning entry onto the world stage with her debut feature film Salaam Bombay! (1988).

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Now hailed as a classic, the film has received more than 25 international awards, including an Academy Award nomination for Best Foreign Language Film in 1988, the Caméra d’Or Award at the Cannes Film Festival. Her second film, Mississippi Masala (1991) won three awards at Venice. Since, Nair made films such as The Perez Family (1993), Kama Sutra: A Tale of Love (1996), My Own Country (1998), The Laughing Club of India (1999). In 2001, Monsoon Wedding, won the Golden Lion at the 2001 Venice Film Festival, becoming one of the highest grossing foreign films of all time. Nair then directed the Golden Globe winning Hysterical Blindness (2002). After making William Makepeace Thackeray’s epic Vanity Fair (2004), she directed a film based on Jhumpa Lahiri’s best-selling novel The Namesake (2006). This was followed by the Amelia Earhart biopic, Amelia (2009) starring Hilary Swank and Richard Gere.

Nair is an avid maker of short films, and has contributed to 11.09.01 (2002) in which 11 renowned film-makers reacted to the events of September 11. Other titles include How Can It Be? (2008), Migration (2008), New York, I Love you (2009), and her collaboration with Emir Kusturica and Guillermo Ariaga on a compilation feature Words With God.

Her latest film, The Reluctant Fundamentalist, was a thriller based on the best-selling novel by Mohsin Hamid. It opened the 2012 Venice Film Festival to critical acclaim, and was released worldwide in early 2013.

A long time activist, Nair set up an annual film-makers’ laboratory, Maisha in Kampala, Uganda. Since 2005, young directors in East Africa have been trained at this non-profit facility with the belief that “If we don’t tell our stories, no one else will”. Maisha is currently building a school with Architect Raul Pantaleo, winner of Aga Khan Award for Architecture, and his company Studio Tamassociati.

In 1988 she used the profits from Salaam Bombay! to create Salaam Balak Trust which works with street children in India.

In 2012, Mira Nair was awarded the Padma Bhushan – India’s second highest civilian honor – by the President of India.

Sabrina Dhawan

Sabrina DhawanSabrina Dhawan graduated from Columbia University’s graduate film program in 2001 with her debut feature as screenwriter, Monsoon Wedding. Amongst other awards, it won the ‘Leon D’Oro’ at the Venice Film Festival and received a Golden Globe nomination. At Columbia, her student short Saanjh – As Night Falls won ‘Best of the Festival’ at the Palm Springs Film Festival; ‘Most Original Film’ from New Line Cinema, ‘Audience Impact’ Award at Angelus Awards, and was nominated for a Student Academy Award.

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Sabrina’s other produced screenplay credits include Kaminey, directed by Vishal Bharadwaj for UTV; Ishqiya, directed by Abhishek Chaubey, for Shemaroo. 11.9.01, directed by Nair for Canal Plus; Cosmopolitan for PBS; She served as co-producer on Bollywood Hero, a mini-series for IFC and as story consultant on Bharadwaj’s Matru Ki Bijli Ka Mandola and wrote a documentary Greatest Love Story Ever Told to celebrate 100 years of Indian cinema for UTV and Shekhar Kapoor.

The studios and production companies Sabrina has been commissioned to write for include UTV, 20th Century Fox, HBO, Disney, Fox-Star, Killer Films, ABC Family, Fox Searchlight etc..

Sabrina is an Associate Professor at the Tisch School of the Arts, New York University. She has taught at filmmaking labs around the world, including Uganda, Tanzania, India, and the continental USA.

Sabrina is currently working on a Broadway musical adaptation of the movie Monsoon Wedding.

She was raised in Delhi and lives in New York City.

Lydia Dean Pilcher

Lydia Dean PilcherLydia Dean Pilcher (Producer) has produced numerous award-winning independent feature films, including the recent Sony Pictures Classics release of the international co-production, The Lunchbox, directed by Ritesh Batra, and she was nominated for an Oscar for the Sundance award-winning documentary, Cutie And the Boxer.

Lydia has produced over 30 feature films including ten movies in a long-standing collaboration with director Mira Nair (most recently The Reluctant Fundamentalist), as well as films including The Darjeeling Limited directed by Wes Anderson and You Don’t Know Jack, directed by Barry Levinson.

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She is the founder and president of Cine Mosaic, one of New York’s leading independent production companies and has forged relationships with a wide range of talent and business partners in the US, Europe, India, Turkey, Africa and the Middle East. She is currently in production with director Brian De Palma on “Happy Valley” and is headed to production later this year with “Queen of Katwe” a Disney feature film, to be shot on location in Uganda with director Mira Nair. Pilcher is also producing a South African-German co-production: Fela – Music is the Weapon, a feature based on the life of Nigerian musician and political activist, Fela Kuti. Pilcher is VIce President of Motion Pictures of the Producers Guild of America. She is a Founder and Chair of PGA Women’s Impact Network, and is a Founder and Chair of PGA Green, an active committee since 2006 dedicated to supporting sustainability in the entertainment industry, and winner of the 2011 EMA Green Production Award. In 2005, Women’s eNews, named Pilcher one of the 21 Leaders for the 21st Century.

Ami Boghani

Ami BoghaniAmi Boghani is an independent screenwriter and producer based in New York City.

She has been involved with Maisha since its inception in 2004. Alongside Mira Nair and Musarait Kashmiri, Ami developed and executed the first Maisha training programs.

More recently, she has served as a screenwriting mentor herself at the 2010 Filmmakers’ Lab in Kampala, Uganda.

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In addition to her work with Maisha, Ami was the development and production executive at Mira Nair’s independent film company, Mirabai Films, from 2004 until 2012. During her tenure, Ami worked on Nair’s feature films The Namesake and Amelia and developed the AIDS JAAGO project with the Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation. She produced Nair’s short films How Can It Be, starring Bollywood stars Konkona Sensharma and Ranbir Shorey, God’s Room, which is part of a series of films on religion commissioned by screenwriter Guillermo Arriaga (Amores Perros, 21 Grams), and A Fork, A Spoon & A Knife, for the Nelson Mandela Foundation and the Tribeca Film Institute.

Ami co-wrote the screen story for and co-produced Nair’s 2013 feature film The Reluctant Fundamentalist, starring Riz Ahmed, Kate Hudson, Liev Schreiber, and Kiefer Sutherland. The film opened the Venice Film Festival and the Doha Tribeca Film Festival and was a gala presentation at the Toronto International Film Festival in 2012.

Now, she is a member of the Maisha Foundation’s Board of Directors and served as a screenwriting and production mentor at the 2010 Filmmakers’ Lab in Kampala, Uganda.

Musarait Kashmiri

Musarait KashmiriMusarait Kashmiri studied at the University of Toronto, Laval University and York University, earning several certificates and degrees, including a Masters in Project Management. Musarait has been living and working in East Africa for the last 20 years. Musarait is currently the Operations Director at Ongeza Tanzania Ltd. Before that she served as General Manager of Good African Coffee Ltd in Kampala, the Chief Operating Officer of an integrated marketing and communications VR Promotions in Kampala.

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She has also served as Deputy Managing Director for FGA, a registered German NGO operating relief and rehabilitation projects in East Africa, particularly in Southern Sudan, Rwanda, DRC and Uganda. Her volunteer services include being on the Board of Directors for both Maisha Foundation Uganda and Bayimba Cultural Foundation. She is also a member of the Asian African Association Uganda and a Member of the Board for Ryan’s Well Foundation based in Canada.

Cathy Watson

Cathy WatsonCathy Watson is head of development at the World Agroforestry Centre in Nairobi. Previously she founded/co-founded two NGOs in Uganda: Straight Talk Foundation and Mvule Trust. A graduate of Princeton, she has 25 years of experience in Africa with a focus on trees, youth, sexuality and families. She is currently pursuing a certificate in agroforestry at the University of Missouri.

 

John Studzinski

John StudzinskiJohn Studzinski CBE runs Blackstone Advisory Partners and is a Senior Managing Director of The Blackstone Group. He is a member of the firm’s Executive Committee. He joined Blackstone in 2006.

John Studzinski began his banking career in 1980 at Morgan Stanley in investment banking in New York and then worked much of his career in London where he served as Head of European Investment Banking and Deputy Chairman of Morgan Stanley International until 2003.

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Mr Studzinski spent three years at HSBC as a member of the Group Management Board and Co-Head of the Investment Banking Division.

Recent transaction experience includes advising Pershing Square regarding Canadian Pacific and JCPenney, Coty on the purchase of Avon, restructuring work for Anglo-Irish and IBRC, GDF Suez in the partnership with China Investment Corporation (including the sale of a 30% stake in its Exploration and Production division), the combination with International Power and the merger between Suez and Gaz de France, the Board of AIG on its global restructuring, the Board of Reuters in the merger with Thomson, Chinalco in the acquisition of its stake in Rio Tinto and Xerox on its acquisition of ACS.

John Studzinski graduated from Bowdoin College and received an MBA from the University of Chicago.

John Studzinski is Vice Chair of Human Rights Watch and serves on the Board of Directors of Bowdoin College, FAPE, The Passage Day Centre, American Patrons of Tate, The Royal Parks Foundation and The Royal College of Art. He is President of the American Friends of the Foundation of Duke & Duchess of Cornwall and Prince Harry and serves as Chairman of The Benjamin Franklin House Museum and CREATE. He is also a member of The Atlantic Council, The Council on Foreign Relations and The Peterson Institute.

He founded the Genesis Foundation in 2001. The Foundation is his personal foundation which supports and nurtures young and emerging artists. The Foundation celebrated ten years of success in 2011.

Awards and honors include: Papal honors of Knight of the Order of St Gregory and Knight Commander of Saint Sylvester. Prince of Wales Ambassador Award. The Beacon Prize for Philanthropy and Banker of the Year in 2008. In 2008, Mr Studzinski was named in the Queen’s New Years Honours List as a Commander of the British Empire (“CBE”) for services to the Arts and Charity.