Iara Lee, a Brazilian of Korean descent, is an activist, filmmaker, and founder/director of the Cultures of Resistance Network, an organization that promotes global solidarity and connects and supports agitators, educators, farmers, and artists to build a more just and peaceful world through creative resistance and nonviolent action!
As a filmmaker, Iara has directed/produced several full-length documentaries and dozens of short films over the past three decades.
Her latest film, entitled ‘FROM TRASH TO TREASURE: turning negatives into positives,’ is a documentary short that showcases a spirit of reimagination among artists in Lesotho and was released in July 2020. In June 2020, she began releasing ‘DISPATCHES FROM MALAWI,’ a series of short films about how proactive Malawian citizens spread hope through arts and culture, sports, and ecology, while engaging with critical social and political issues and promoting international solidarity. ‘STALKING CHERNOBYL: exploration after apocalypse‘ (2020) examines the underground culture of the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone three decades after the world’s most infamous nuclear disaster. In 2019, she released ‘WANTOKS: dance of resilience in Melanesia,’ which highlights the Melanesian performers who are using their talents to celebrate local culture and draw international attention to their islands’ fights against climate change and colonization, with West Papua resisting Indonesian occupation and the residents of New Caledonia still living under French rule.. Her other recent documentaries were shot in West Africa: ‘BURKINABÈ RISING: the art of resistance in Burkina Faso‘ (2018), about the intersection of art and politics in Burkina Faso, and ‘BURKINABÈ BOUNTY: agroecology in Burkina Faso‘ (2018), which chronicles agricultural resistance and the fight for food sovereignty in Burkina Faso. She currently has two other projects in post-production: ‘THE SAMI SONG OF SURVIVAL,’ a short documentary about indigenous resistance on the Arctic frontier, and ‘EXISTENCE IS RESISTANCE: The Sami in Russia,’ a short documentary highlighting the ways in which one of Russia’s smallest ethnic groups is finding new methods of persevering and preserving its culture.
In 2015, Iara completed two documentaries: ‘K2 AND THE INVISIBLE FOOTMEN,’ shot in stunning northern Pakistan, chronicles the plight of the indigenous porters of majestic K2, the earth’s second-highest peak. ‘LIFE IS WAITING: Referendum and Resistance in Western Sahara‘ looks at more than forty years of Moroccan occupation and the Sahrawi nonviolent struggle for self-determination by a people for whom colonialism has never ended.
In 2013, Iara finished a series of three short films on indigenous rights: ‘BATTLE FOR THE XINGU,’ which highlights the spectacular determination of the Amazon people to protect their way of life; ‘THE RAPE OF THE SAMBURU WOMEN,’ which illuminates the situation facing women in the Samburu region of Kenya, where England has maintained military training facilities for more than fifty years; and ‘THE KALASHA AND THE CRESCENT,’ which chronicles how this indigenous minority in northern Pakistan responded to the challenges facing their culture.
In 2012, Iara directed ‘THE SUFFERING GRASSES: when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers,’ which examines the Syrian conflict through the humanity of the civilians who have been killed, abused, and displaced to the squalor of refugee camps.
In May 2010, Iara was a passenger on the MV Mavi Marmara, a vessel in the Gaza Freedom Flotilla that was attacked in international waters by the Israeli navy, leading to the murder of nine humanitarian aid workers. Among the many people who recorded the events on that ship, her crew was the only one to successfully hide and retain most of the raid footage, which she later released to the world after a screening at the United Nations. Iara is dedicated to the support of Palestinian civilians who have been victims of war crimes committed by the Israeli military and who suffer from the Israeli government’s ongoing acts of collective punishment.
At the onset of the Iraq war in 2003, Iara decided to live in the MENA region (Middle East & North Africa) in order to understand the conflict from that perspective. She spent extensive time in Syria, Yemen, Tunisia, Jordan, and Lebanon, where she experienced firsthand Israel’s 34-day bombardment of that country in 2006. Moved by that experience, she has since dedicated herself to the pursuit of a just peace in the region, and she is an enthusiastic supporter of those initiatives which strengthen adherence to international law. In 2008, Iara lived in Iran and supported a number of cultural exchange projects with the goal of promoting arts and culture for global solidarity. Her experiences in the Middle East led her to travel to other corners of the global South and culminated in the production of her feature-length documentary ‘CULTURES OF RESISTANCE‘ (2010), which explores how creative action contributes to conflict prevention and resolution worldwide.
From 1984 to 1989, Iara was the producer of the Sao Paulo International Film Festival in Brazil. From 1989 to 2003, she was based in New York City, where she ran the mixed-media company Caipirinha Productions, created to explore the synergy of different art forms, such as film, music, architecture, and poetry. Under that banner, Iara directed short and feature-length documentaries including ‘SYNTHETIC PLEASURES,’ ‘MODULATIONS,’ ‘ARCHITETTURA,’ ‘BENEATH THE BORQA,’ ‘AN AUTUMN WIND,’ and ‘PRUFROCK.’
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