Flashback
A look back at this day in film history
December 22
Mira Nair October 15, 1957
Mira Nair born

Born on October 15, 1957 in Bhubaneshwar, Orissa in India –– a town she later remarked, “even in Indian terms, it's really remote" –– Mira Nair was a director from the very start. At first, it was just the village children. Her father later commented, “Even though the boys were older, she was the leader." As she grew up, she expanded her repertoire of self-expression, learning to play the sitar, to paint, to write poetry and perform street theater. After attending the University of Delhi, Nair received a full scholarship from Harvard. Intending to study drama, Nair interest soon turned to documentary film. And within a few years she created a number of short documentaries dealing with life and Indian and in the Indian Diaspora. For her first feature, Nair, however, pushed the boundaries of documentary to create a hybrid form. For her, documentary proved too constraining since, as she told the Philadelphia Inquirer, “Life controlled the film.” The feature SALAAM BOMBAY!, a drama about street kids that used her talents as a writer, performer and documentarian, became an international hit, winning Camera d'Or for Best First Film at the Cannes Film Festival, as well getting an Oscar nomination for Best Foreign Film. In nearly all her films, Mira Nair has shown a talent for bringing together diverse interests, be in the mix of cultures in her American indie debut MISSISSIPPI MASALA, or the mix of styles in her Indie Bollywood romance MONSOON WEDDING, or many generations in THE PEREZ FAMILY. Even in tackling a period piece like VANITY FAIR, Nair was able to showcase to advantage the 19th century novel’s fascination with India. When she first approached the film, she found universal connections between her world and William Thackeray’s : “I'm not a big fan of English period stuffy drawing-room drama. But the modernity of this novel, the fact that social climbing and vanity and greed and ambition, the human folly that we're all part of, is something that is so utterly timeless.”


More Flashbacks
Around the World in Eighty Days Dec. 22, 1956
Around the World in Eighty Days Premieres

Based on the novel by Jules Verne, the 1956 film Around the World in 80 Days, which opened in L.A. on December 22, 1956, was the kind of glorious cinematic jape that rarely is produced anymore.

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December 22, 1993
Philadelphia breaks the AIDS barrier

A few days before Christmas, Jonathan Demme’s groundbreaking AIDS melodrama hit screens, just in time for Academy consideration. A month later the film was duly rewarded, garnering five nominations, with Tom Hanks winning for Best Actor and Bruce Springsteen winning Best Song. But the road to Philadelphia was neither straight, nor clear. Years earlier, producer Scott Rudin worked with screenwriter Ron Nyswaner to get a film about AIDS started. The two looked at a range of stories, including that of Geoffrey Bowers, a New York City attorney who was fired after he showed signs of HIV in 1986. Rudin sold the concept to TriStar who worked with Jonathan Demme (who’d just won an Oscar for Silence of the Lambs in 1991). For Rudin and Nyswaner, both gay men who’d experienced the deaths of many friends, the issue was personal. Likewise for Demme, who dealt with illness and death of his wife’s best friend: “When Juan [Botas] said he was HIV positive, I reacted in the only positive way I could, which was to try to work somehow.” While Demme made Philadelphia to be “targeted for the malls," he wanted the set to be true to the people dealing with the epidemic. Of the 53 gay men cast in the film, nearly 43 died within the next year. At one point, Demme was forced into a fight with TriStar over casting openly gay actor Ron Vawter; the studio wanted to reject him because they could not take out insurance on him. Demme only had to point out the cruel irony of the studio firing an actor in a film about someone being fired for having HIV.

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