Nelofer Pazira-Fisk


Region(s): Asia, Middle East
Country of focus: Afghanistan, Lebanon
Based in Dublin and Ottawa

Nelofer Pazira-Fisk (@pazira1) is an award-winning Afghan-Canadian author, film director, journalist and actress.

Her starring role in Kandahar, the acclaimed feature film presented at Cannes in 2001, brought Nelofer to the world’s attention. The film was based on her real-life story. She was awarded the Prix d’interprétation by the Festival du Nouveau Cinéma de Montréal for her performance in Kandahar.

Nelofer performed in, co-produced, and co-directed Return to Kandahar, which won the 2003 Gemini award in Canada. In 2008, she directed and produced Audition, a documentary about images and cinema in Afghanistan, premiered at Toronto’s Hot Docs 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 in Afghanistan.

She’s been a jury member at film festivals including Locarno, Geneva, Sao Paulo, Edinburgh, and Montreal. In 2001-2002 she assisted UNESCO as a cultural ambassador in their work inside Afghanistan. In 2009, Nelofer represented Canada in Europe as a cultural delegate accompanying then Governor General Michaëlle Jean.

In 2003, she founded a charity — The Dyana Afghan Women’s Fund  – named after her childhood friend who died during the Taliban rule. It provides education for women in Afghanistan.

Nelofer is an Afghan, born in India where her father worked with the World Health Organization. She grew up in Kabul during the ten years of Soviet occupation before escaping with her family to Pakistan in 1989. From there, they immigrated to New Brunswick, Canada, in 1990.

Nelofer was president of PEN Canada when she was involved in the successful release from prison of Chinese journalist Jiang Weiping, Afghan journalists Ahmed Ghous Zalmai and Sayed Parwiz Kambakhsh. She is a frequent speaker at international conferences, universities and colleges.

As a journalist Nelofer has worked for the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) TV and Radio. Her 2015 radio documentary Of Paradise and Failure — about the fate of a young suicide bomber in Iraq and his family – won the Silver Medal at New York’s International Radio Program Awards. She has written for The Independent (London), Toronto Star, The Ottawa Citizen, the British film journal ‘Sight and Sound’ and many other publications.

In 2006, Nelofer’s memoir A Bed of Red Flowers: In Search of My Afghanistan was named winner of the Drainie-Taylor Biography Prize in Canada. Nelofer holds a degree in Journalism and English Literature from Carleton University (Ottawa), and an MA in Anthropology/Sociology and Religion from Concordia University (Montreal). She received an honorary doctorate of laws at Carleton and an honorary doctorate of letters from Thomson Rivers University, B.C.