Filmmaker, educator, and eco-activist, Shalini Kantayya, shows us that sustainable energy isn’t just right for the environment, but also means untold economic opportunities. In her films, Kantayya tells a growing story of innovation and ingenuity—one that’s disrupting outmoded industries and putting power back into the hands of those who need it most.
Kantayya’s production company 7th Empire Media works to create a culture of human rights and sustainability through imaginative media. She most recently directed Breakthrough for National Geographic: a series profiling trailblazing scientists who will transform our future (airing Spring 2017, with Executive Produced by Ron Howard). Her latest film is Catching the Sun, a feature documentary that explores the race for the clean energy future through the stories of solar entrepreneurs in the U.S. and China. The film premiered at the 2015 Los Angeles Film Festival and was named a New York Times Critics’ Pick. It’s also part of American Film Showcase, and will be shown at U.S. embassies and diplomatic missions around the world. The film won the Best Feature award at the San Francisco Green Film Festival, and was released globally on Netflix on Earth Day 2016 with Executive Producer Leonardo DiCaprio. Catching the Sun has been nominated by the Environmental Media Association for the 2016 EMA Award for Best Documentary and has been translated into 35 languages.
Kantayya finished in the top 10 out of 12,000 filmmakers on Fox’s On the Lot, a show by Steven Spielberg in search of Hollywood’s next great director. Her award-winning sci-fi film about the world water crisis, A Drop of Life, was broadcast on national television in the U.S. and India. A Drop of Life was used as a tool to organize for water rights in 40 villages across Africa—making a real-world impact in the lives of thousands.
Kantayya is a Sundance Fellow, and a TED Fellow. She was also a finalist for the ABC/Disney Directing Program. A William D. Fulbright Scholar, she has lectured at Princeton, Yale, Stanford, USC, among others. She has received recognition from the Sundance Documentary Program, IFP Spotlight on Documentary, New York Women in Film and Television, and the Jerome Hill Centennial.