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. She is the director of the documentaries 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, SOAS University of London, Amnesty International, Center for Constitutional Rights, Committee to Protect Journalists, and Doctors Without Borders, among many other organizations.
From 1984 to 1989, Lee was the producer of the São Paulo International Film Festival in Brazil. 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.
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. 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.
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, (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.
Lee's newest films are Life Is Waiting: Referendum and Resistance in Western Sahara (2015), which chronicles the everyday violence of life under occupation in Western Sahara, and K2 and the Invisible Footmen (2015), 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, which was directed and edited by Fred Khoshtinat.
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. In 2009, Lee released a short film about the dam controversy, Battle for the Xingu, in conjunction with groups such as International Rivers.
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.The Kalasha and the Crescent (2013) short film
The Suffering Grasses (2012) feature documentary
Cultures of Resistance (2010) feature documentary
Battle for the Xingu (2009) short film
Modulations: Cinema for the Ear (1998) feature documentary
Synthetic Pleasures (1995) feature documentary
"Q&A Politics: Iara Lee", Dazed and Confused, 2012
"Syria: Thirst for Revenge Among Refugees in Turkey, Warns Radical Filmmaker Iara Lee", International Business Times UK, June 2012
Interview with Iara Lee about her footage from the Mavi Marmara by Democracy Now!, June 2010
"TEO MACERO: Interview by Iara Lee", MODULATIONS, September 1997
"Jon More Matt Black: Coldcut Interview by Iara Lee", Modulations, Summer 1997