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Deepa Mehta: A Woman Making History

March 10, 2010

30 Women Making History
In recognition of the 30th anniversary of Women’s History Month, Women’s Media Center is profiling 30 extraordinary women making history.  Our goal is to raise $10,000 to support WMC Exclusives — every dollar raised will go directly toward hiring women writers to comment on major news stories and report topics often neglected by the mainstream media. Will you contribute $30?
Click here to donate: or text WOMEN to 50555 to make a $10 donation. Deepa Mehta: A Woman Making History by Becca Stanger With Kathryn Bigelow’s recent achievement as the first woman director to win an Oscar, there’s been a lot of talk lately about women’s achievements in film.  Bigelow, however, is certainly not the first woman director to overcome obstacles.  Over the past two decades, Deepa Mehta has established herself as a provocative woman movie director resilient in the face of opposition. Mehta is best known for her “elemental trilogy” film series consisting of Fire (1996), Earth (1998), and Water (2005).  When Fire was released in 1996, its depiction of a lesbian relationship between two sisters-in-law and its denouncement of women’s oppression in patriarchal societies enraged Hindu fundamentalists.  In response, protesters in Delhi attacked movie theaters where the film was screened.  Mehta, however, received international acclaim for the moving film. Following the less dramatic release of Earth, Mehta began production in 2000 for Water, a film focusing on a group of Indian widows tragically forced into austere seclusion.  During filming Mehta faced violent opposition once again from Hindu fundamentalists who sent death threats, damaged the film’s set, and burned Mehta in effigy.  As a result, Mehta reluctantly stopped filming and withdrew her crew from India.  She vowed, however, to return to the project.  After working on two other films, Mehta followed through on her promise and continued the film’s production in Sri Lanka.  Upon its release, Water was hailed as a great success and earned an Academy Award nomination for best foreign-language film. I first learned about Deepa Mehta’s work this past weekend at the Brooklyn Museum’s First Saturday Event “Viva Woman!”  In a crowded auditorium, I watched a screening of Water and stayed for a post-film discussion with NYU Associate Professor of Gender and Sexuality Studies Gayatri Gopinath.  After the event, I walked away with a newfound admiration for Mehta.  With grace and patience, she surmounted hatred to eloquently declare to the world her conception of womanhood.  To me, Deepa Mehta is a warrior and a leader.  An artist and an inspiration.  And Deepa Mehta is a woman who belongs in my history book.