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Nelofer Pazira is an award-winning Afghan-Canadian director, actress, journalist and author. She grew up in Kabul, Afghanistan, where she lived through ten years of Soviet occupation before escaping with her family to Pakistan. From there, they immigrated to New Brunswick, Canada, more than twenty years ago.
In 1996, Nelofer attempted to return to Afghanistan — still under Taliban rule — to find a lost childhood friend. Although unsuccessful, Nelofer became the star of Kandahar, a highly acclaimed feature film (presented at the Cannes Film Festival in 2001) which was based on her journey. She was awarded the Prix d'interprétation by the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma de Montréal for her performance in Kandahar. She also assisted UNESCO as a goodwill ambassador in their cultural work inside Afghanistan. She has been a jury member at a number of film festivals including those of Locarno, Geneva, São Paulo, Edinburgh, and Montreal.
Nelofer later performed in, co-produced, and co-directed Return to Kandahar, which won the 2003 Gemini Award in Canada and also appeared in Christian Frei’s documentary, The Giant Buddhas. In 2008, she directed and produced Audition, a documentary about images and cinema in Afghanistan which premiered at the Hot Docs Canadian International Documentary Festival. She is the writer and director of Act of Dishonour (2010), a dramatic feature film about honour killing and the plight of returning refugees.
Nelofer, who was born in India where her Afghan father was then working with the World Health Organization, has directed a number of documentaries, and has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) in CBC Television and CBC Radio. Her radio documentary Of Paradise and Failure, about the fate of a young suicide bomber and his family, was the winner of the Silver Medal at New York’s media award ceremony. She has written for the Toronto Star, The Independent of London, the British film journal Sight and Sound and many other publications.
Nelofer founded a charity, the Dyana Afghan Women's Fund (www.dawf.ca), named after her childhood friend who died during Taliban rule. It provides education and skills training for women in Afghanistan.
In 2006, Nelofer's memoir A Bed of Red Flowers: In Search of My Afghanistan was named winner of the Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize.
Nelofer is a frequent speaker at international conferences as well as universities and colleges including Carleton University and George Washington University, and was a keynote speaker at the Religion, Culture & Conflict symposium at Trinity Western University. Pazira defended Joseph Boyden's novel Three Day Road in Canada Reads 2006
Nelofer is a past president of the influential freedom of expression movement PEN Canada. In 2009, she accompanied the Governor General of Canada Michaëlle Jean as a cultural delegate in state visits to Slovenia, Croatia and Greece.
Nelofer holds a degree in Journalism and English Literature from Carleton University (Ottawa), and a master's degree in Anthropology/Sociology and Religion from Concordia University (Montreal). She has also received an honorary doctorate of law from Carleton. Recently, she received an honorary doctorate of letters from Thompson Rivers University in Kamloops, British Columbia.
She established her own film company, Kandahar Films, in 2001.
- Kandahar (2001)
- Return to Kandahar (2003)
- The Giant Buddhas (2005)
- Audition (2008)
- Act of Dishonour (2010)
- A Bed of Red Flowers: In Search of My Afghanistan (2005)