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Immigrants Of The Day: Mira Nair of India, Lidia Maticchio Bastianich of Croatia, and Kieu Chinh of Vietnam

by Kevin R. Johnson

Mira Nair (India)

Mira_nair Mira Nair (born October 15, 1957, Rourkela, India) is a film director and producer with her own production company, Mirabai Films. Nair was educated at Delhi University and Harvard University. Her debut feature film, Salaam Bombay!, won the Golden Camera award at the Cannes Film Festival and was also nominated for an Academy Award.

Mira Nair was born in India. She studied sociology in Delhi University, where she became involved in political street theater and performed for three years in an amateur drama company. Nair came to the United States at age 19 with a scholarship to Harvard.

At the beginning of her career as a film artist, Nair directed four documentaries. India Cabaret, a film about the lives of strippers in a Bombay nightclub, won the award at the American Film Festival in 1986. Salaam Bombay! (1988) was nominated for an Oscar for best foreign language film. It is today considered a classic, and is standard fare for film students.

Nair's films take on difficult social issues and handle them in a sophisticated fashion.  For example, her 1995 film The Perez Family (1993), starring Marisa Tomei, Alfred Molina, and Anjelica Huston, looks at a "family" of Cuban refugees who came to the U.S. in the Mariel boatlift of 1980. Nair also directed the 1991 film Mississippi Masala, starring Denzel Washington and Sarita Choudhury.  The film profiled a family of Ugandan-Indians, who fled Idi Amin, living and working in Mississippi. The Indian daughter falls in love with an African America, and the respective families have to come to terms with it.

Nair's most popular film to date, Monsoon Wedding (2001), a film about a chaotic Punjabi Indian wedding, was awarded the prestigious Golden Lion award at the Venice film festival. Nair's 2004 version of the's novel, Vanity Fair, starred Reese Witherspoon. Nair's latest film, The Namesake, premiered in the fall of 2006 at Dartmouth College where Ms. Nair was presented with the Dartmouth Film Award, which honors outstanding contributors to film and filmmaking. Previous winners have included Johnny Depp, Robert Redford, Liv Ullman, Ken Burns, Ang Lee, Glenn Close, and Meryl Streep.

Nair lives near Columbia University in New York City.  She is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

Our colleagues at IntLawGrrls will be celebrating Mira Nair's 50th birthday today with a posting.

October 15, 2007 | Permalink

Lidia Maticchio Bastianich (Croatia)

Lidia Born in Croatia, Lidia Maticchio Bastianich (born 1947) is a chef and host of television cooking shows on PBS. She has opened several acclaimed restaurants and has authored several cookbooks. Bastianich currently hosts the show "Lidia's Italy."

Lidia Bastianich is widely regarded as the “First Lady of Italian cuisine and restaurants in the United States.” She was born in Pula, Istria, a region formed by the Gulf of Trieste and the juncture of Italy and the former Yugoslavia, and she came to New York in 1958. Her television show, Lidia’s Italian American Kitchen, began airing in 2001. Her third cookbook by the same name as her television show was released in 1998. Lidia is the author of the monthly column, Lidia’s Italian Table.

Lidia was also one of the five top television chefs to be featured in a Julia Child hosted millennium cooking special, An American Feast, which aired in December, 2000.

Lidia is also considered an acclaimed chef and restaurateur.

Lidia developed her own line of pasta sauces, Lidia’s Flavors of Italy, with one of her television sponsors in 1998. Currently the sauce is found nationwide.

Bastianich is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

For a N.Y. Times list of resources about Lidia Bastianch, click here.

October 16, 2007 | Permalink

Kieu Chinh (Vietnam)

Kieu_chinh Kieu Chinh (born 1939 in Vietnam) is a legendary actress best known for her role in The Joy Luck Club.

Kieu Chinh began her acting career in Vietnam with a starring role in 1957. She soon became one of Vietnam's best-known personalities. In the 1960s, in addition to Vietnamese films, she also appeared in several American productions. Kieu Chinh also produced a war epic Nguoi Tinh Khong Chan Dung (Faceless Lover) (1970), which later would be remastered and shown in the U.S. at the 2003 Vietnamese International Film Festival.

In 1975, while Kieu Chinh was on the set in Singapore, the North Vietnamese army overran Saigon. Kieu Chinh left for the U.S. where she resumed her acting career in a 1977 episode of the television show M*A*S*H loosely based on her life story.

Kieu Chinh subsequently acted in feature films as well as TV-movies. Her best known role was as Suyuan, one of the women in Wayne Wang's The Joy Luck Club (1993). In 2005, Kieu Chinh starred in Journey from the Fall, an epic feature film tracing a Vietnamese family through the aftermath of the fall of Saigon, the re-education camp, the boat people experience, and thel difficulties of settling in the U.S.

Together with journalist Terry Anderson, Kieu Chinh co-founded the Vietnam Children's Fund, which has built schools in Vietnam attended by more than 12,000 students.

In 1996, a documentary based on her life, Kieu Chinh: A Journey Home by Patrick Perez, won an Emmy.

Chinh is a naturalized U.S. citizen.

October 17, 2007 | Permalink

These posts were orginally posted on the ImmigrationProf Blog here, here and here.

About The Author

Kevin R. Johnson is currently Dean, Professor of Law and Chicana/o Studies, and the Mabie-Apallas Public Interest Law Chair holder at the University of California at Davis. He is also one of the editors of ImmigrationProf Blog .

The opinions expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of ILW.COM.