Taira Malaney
Behind the scenes directing Author: Krish Makhija

Taira Malaney

Wildlife & Human Interest Filmmaker

harnessing empathy and curiosity for change

meet taira

Taira is a writer, director, and editor from Goa, India. She founded Emaho Films in 2016 to tell powerful, character-driven stories that explore profound relationships between humans and the natural world, harnessing the emotional power of these stories to create on-ground impact-driven campaigns. During her study of psychology, Taira focused on fostering empathy in youth, then worked with a marine conservation organization on the Andaman and Nicobar Islands, using film screenings to break barriers of language and age groups and help local youth build a positive relationship with the marine world. An avid diver, Taira has created several award-winning short films and is currently directing her first feature film, Turtle Walker.

harnessing empathy and curiosity for change
Nominated by: Natalie Cash FR'21
Class of 2023 Location India
Behind the scenes directing
Behind the scenes directing Author: Krish Makhija

When I made the decision to transition from developmental psychology to film, I felt like I had failed, but I have realized those learnings play a huge role in the way I tell stories. When the audience feels empathy and compassion for the character in their struggle to achieve a mission, that can drive them to action. My curiosity about human emotion, particularly what motivates empathy in an audience, is what I use to create impact films.

Amche Mollem is a campaign run by local scientists, students, doctors, artists, farmers, and lawyers in Goa, India, to protect the state’s only wildlife sanctuary and primary water source from three large infrastructure projects initiated by the government. Understanding the call to action, I decided to tell the story through the local community’s perspectives and created My Mollem, a short documentary released in 2021. The film was viewed by hundreds of thousands of citizens across India. They began protesting, and the issue was brought to the Central Environmental Committee in the Supreme Court of India. The CEC has ordered a re-examination of all three projects, revoking one and modifying two.

“My curiosity about human emotion, particularly what motivates empathy in an audience, is what I use to create impact films.”

- Taira Malaney

The impact campaign for Turtle Walker, my feature documentary set to release this year, initiated in 2019. Phase one is complete: we partnered with marine conservation NGO Reefwatch Foundation to help expand a pilot megafauna stranding program in India from Karnataka all the way up to Gujarat. Hundreds of sea turtles, dolphins, whales, and marine birds have been rescued and rehabilitated. Phase two contains two further goals: to perform a carbon assessment case study of the film and use it to facilitate and share carbon filmmaking strategies across the film industry in India; and to use the film to introduce marine studies into schools across the country.

The most meaningful part of my work is immersing myself into the world of another person or animal, gradually learning about their way of seeing the world.

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