Iara Lee

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Iara Lee (Ponta Grossa, Brazil, 1966) is a Brazilian film producer, director and activist of Korean descent who works mainly in the Middle East and Africa. Her most recent project is a series of two documentaries about Burkina Faso, one about creative resistance in the landlocked African country (Burkinabè Rising: The Art of Resistance in Burkina Faso[1]) and another about resistance to corporate agriculture in the country (Burkinabè Bounty: Agroecology in Burkina Faso), both released in 2018. Her other documentaries include Life Is Waiting: Referendum and Resistance in Western Sahara (2015), K2 and the Invisible Footmen (2015), The Kalasha and the Crescent (2013), The Suffering Grasses (2012), Cultures of Resistance (2010), Beneath the Borqa in Afghanistan (2002), Architettura (1999), Modulations: Cinema for the Ear (1998), Synthetic Pleasures (1995), and An Autumn Wind (1994). In 2010, Lee was involved in the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla," where nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed by Israeli naval forces and many were injured.

Lee is the founder of the Cultures of Resistance Network Foundation (formerly named the Caipirinha Foundation) and a longtime supporter of Greenpeace International, Amnesty International, Center for Constitutional Rights, Committee to Protect Journalists, and Doctors Without Borders, among many other organizations.[2]

Film career[edit]

From 1984 to 1989, Lee was the producer of the São Paulo International Film Festival in Brazil.[3] From 1989 to 2003, while based in New York, she ran the mixed-media company Caipirinha Productions to explore the synergy of different artforms (such as film, music, architecture, and poetry). Under that banner, Iara has directed short and feature-length documentaries including Synthetic Pleasures, Modulations, Architettura, and Beneath the Borqa. Synthetic Pleasures, released in 1995, deals with the impact of high technology on mass culture. The multimedia project Modulations, released in 1998, traces the evolution of electronic music. Her next film was Beneath the Borqa, a 2000 short documentary film about the lives of women and children under the Taliban regime in Afghanistan.[4]

In 2010, Lee directed the feature-length documentary film, Cultures of Resistance, which celebrates creative acts of political struggle. The film debuted in its final form late in 2010, after which it screened at many film festivals, including the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam, and won numerous awards.[5][6][7][8] Notably, the film was screened at the Beijing International Film Festival in 2011, defying the norms in a country where political resistance is rarely depicted in the media.[9]

Lee's subsequent projects include a short film, The Kalasha and the Crescent (2013), on the ways that the Kalash indigenous people of northern Pakistan are responding to the challenges facing their culture; and a documentary entitled The Suffering Grasses: when elephants fight, it is the grass that suffers,[10][11] (2012) which explores the Syrian conflict from the perspective of the civilians who have been displaced to refugee camps. The Suffering Grasses came out of footage taken during Lee's participation in a press delegation to Turkish refugee camps housing Syrians in exile.[12][13]

Lee's newest films are two documentaries about Burkina Faso (Burkinabè Rising: The Art of Resistance in Burkina Faso[14] and Burkinabè Bounty: Agroecology in Burkina Faso, both released in 2018), Life Is Waiting: Referendum and Resistance in Western Sahara (2015)[15], which chronicles the everyday violence of life under occupation in Western Sahara, and K2 and the Invisible Footmen (2015),[16] which documents the unsung efforts of the indigenous porters who for decades have facilitated the ascent of the Earth's second-highest mountain.


In 2008, Lee lived in Iran and supported a number of cultural exchange projects between that country and the West, with the goal of promoting arts and culture for global solidarity. For example, she helped produce Iranian rapper Hichkas' "Ye Mosht Sarbaz (A Bunch of Soldiers)" music video,[17] which was directed and edited by Fred Khoshtinat.[18]

Lee has also actively supported indigenous and civil society campaigns to prevent the construction of the Belo Monte mega-dam on the Xingu river, a major tributary of the Amazon in Brazil. According to the California-based nonprofit International Rivers, the dam project threatens to displace over 20,000 people, destroy an extensive area of the Brazilian rainforest, and endanger indigenous tribes that depend on the river for their survival.[19] In 2009, Lee released a short film about the dam controversy, Battle for the Xingu, in conjunction with groups such as International Rivers.[20]

Gaza flotilla[edit]

In 2010, Lee participated in the "Gaza Freedom Flotilla," where nine pro-Palestinian activists were killed by Israeli naval forces and many were injured. Her footage of the event was released in a press conference at the United Nations in June 2010.[21][22]


  • Burkinabè Bounty (forthcoming), short film
  • Burkinabè Rising (2018), feature documentary
  • The Kalasha and the Crescent (2013), short film[23]
  • The Suffering Grasses (2012), feature documentary[10]
  • Cultures of Resistance (2010), feature documentary[24]
  • Battle for the Xingu (2009), short film[25][26]
  • Modulations: Cinema for the Ear (1998), feature documentary
  • Synthetic Pleasures (1995), feature documentary



  1. ^ "Can art bring a political change? Iara Lee discusses 'Burkinabe Rising'". Winter Film Awards. 2018-02-04. Retrieved 2018-06-04. 
  2. ^ "Greenpeace Annual Report 2009" (PDF). Greenpeace.org. 
  3. ^ Orton, Karen. "Q&A / Politics: Iara Lee". Dazed and Confused. 
  4. ^ "MetroActive Movies | Iara Lee". Metroactive.com. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  5. ^ "Tiburon International Film Festival". Tiburonfilmfestival.com. 2011-04-15. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  6. ^ "5th Annual International Red Rock Film Festival — Southern Utah". Redrockfilmfestival.com. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  7. ^ "2011 Atlanta Underground Film Festival Awards - Be a part of the 2012 AUFF - film festival submissions accepted now!". Auff.org. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  8. ^ "Cultures of Resistance Awards". Caipirinha Productions. 
  9. ^ The Strand. BBC World Service http://www.bbc.co.uk/radio/player/p00kktj2. Retrieved 10/11/11.  Check date values in: |accessdate= (help); Missing or empty |title= (help)
  10. ^ a b "The Suffering Grasses: When Elephants Fight, It Is the Grass That Suffers (2012)". Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  11. ^ Certo, Peter. "The Suffering Grasses: Remembering the Other Syria". Foreign Policy in Focus. 
  12. ^ Saleh, Tariq. "Cineasta brasileira retrata desespero em campo de refugiados sírios". BBC Brasil. 
  13. ^ "The Suffering Grasses - Iara Lee". Frontline Club. 
  14. ^ "Iara Lee, 'Burkinabe Rising: The Art of Resistance in Burkina Faso' – Polyester Zine". polyesterzine.com. Retrieved 2018-06-04. 
  15. ^ Sahara Press Service (El Aaiun) (2015-03-17). "Morocco: New Film About Western Sahara Resistance Produced". allAfrica.com. Retrieved 2015-12-24. 
  16. ^ "Tidbits - May 14, 2015 - TPP; Stop-and-Frisk; White Americans and Police Accountability; Vietnam ,Debating the War; Remembering Jackson State Murders; more..." Portside. 2015-05-14. Retrieved 2015-12-24. 
  17. ^ "Hich Kas: Bunch of Soldiers and Beyond". Cultures of Resistance. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  18. ^ "Persian's Underground Cinematic Arts : About us". Puca.ir. Archived from the original on 2009-12-21. Retrieved 2010-04-12. 
  19. ^ "Belo Monte Dam". International Rivers. 
  20. ^ "Battle for the Xingu". International Rivers. 
  21. ^ Siddique, Haroon. "Gaza flotilla attack: activist releases new footage". The Guardian. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  22. ^ Pearson, Erica. "Tribeca filmmaker, activist Iara Lee takes viewers within Israeli raid on Gaza flotilla". New York Daily News. 
  23. ^ "The Kalasha and the Crescent". IMDb. Retrieved 10 October 2013. 
  24. ^ "Director Iara Lee". Cultures of Resistance. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  25. ^ "UNAFF 2009: Battle for the Xingu". Unaff.org. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 
  26. ^ "Battle for the Xingu | 2009 Starz Denver Film Festival | Iara Lee | USA". Denverfilm.org. Retrieved 2012-01-31. 

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