You have done us proud, Sharmeen!

Published: February 27, 2012

Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy accept the Oscar for the Best Documentary Short Subject for their film 'Saving Face' at the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California, February 26, 2012. PHOTO: REUTERS

When Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy became the first Pakistani to win an Oscar for her documentary Saving Face, she dedicated her award to all the women of Pakistan for their bravery. But this is a victory that can be enjoyed by the entire country. In the days and months ahead, she will undoubtedly be felicitated for her achievement and may even end up becoming the face of a more liberal and tolerant Pakistan. Hopefully, along with all the joy that accompanies this Oscar win, there will also be some soul-searching and reflection. Saving Face dealt compassionately with the plight of women who are acid victims and, among the kudos given to the film-maker, the strength and courage of these women should not be forgotten. For them to narrate their ordeals on camera with such unflinching honesty makes them, even more so than those who worked on the documentary, the true heroes of Saving Face.

There are those who will bemoan the fact that Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s documentary will further reinforce the Western narrative of Pakistan as a backward country that violates human rights. Many may argue that the media only focuses on negative subjects and portrays the country in a stereotypically depressing fashion. However, it is not her duty as a film-maker to project a sanitised image of the country. When she made Saving Face, she was choosing to concentrate on a subject matter that was dear to her heart and it is not the job of a documentary film-maker to be a propagandist on behalf of her country. Though she was not associated with the local film industry, her win will be a boost for film-makers throughout Pakistan as it shows the talent that is present here. We now know it is possible to receive international attention for quality work. Apart from the honour Ms Obaid-Chinoy has received, she has also had a burden placed on her. Unlike politicians in our country who spend billions to improve Pakistan’s image in the international community, she has done so by her talent and hard work. From now on she will be looked on as a pioneer that others will be seeking to emulate. Everything that we have seen of her shows that this is a person who will handle that responsibility with grace and humility. Congratulations, Sharmeen! This nation is proud of you.

Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2012.

Reader Comments (16)

  • G. Din
    Feb 28, 2012 - 12:38AM

    It is not a peculiarly “Pakistani” problem. It happens in India, too, even perhaps in more damaging ways. Can one say how the rest of the world bludgeons the face of someone who was a beloved at one time particularly more civilized? A search light has been trained on a heinous problem for which all of us whose stomach turns at this bestiality must be thankful!

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  • John B
    Feb 28, 2012 - 2:10AM

    If the documentary is not shown in Pakistan televisions, then PAK cannot claim credit for Oscar and the efforts of the victims, the doctors and the film makers are in vain.

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  • Amjad
    Feb 28, 2012 - 4:54AM

    @G. Din: In fact there are more acid attacks in India and Bangladesh or neighbouring Afghanistan. The fact is that a Pakistani made documentary is highlighting this issue and hopefully will mobilise more efforts to rid the world of this scourge. Congratulations to Pakistani filmakers everywhere!

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  • Imran Ahsan Mirza
    Feb 28, 2012 - 6:45AM

    I hope she does not belong to any minority group, otherwise she will be wiped out from the Pakistani history so it may not cause any inconvinience to the Pakistani clergy. Good work Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. You are a model for the progressive Pakistan.

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  • Ahmad Rafiq
    Feb 28, 2012 - 8:57AM

    What kind of a Pakistani representing Pakistan would be wearing that dress ?

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  • Haider Hussain
    Feb 28, 2012 - 9:21AM

    Bravo Sharmeen Bravo!!!!!

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  • Women from America
    Feb 28, 2012 - 9:59AM

    The editorial written by this news media needs to be congratulated for its positive message to celebrate a distinguish lady Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s documentary. Now that you have rightfully put this established lady on a pedestal Pakistan should dedicate a day for Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s. This will motivate all young talented women and men that no mountain is too high to climb and in spite of some negative stereotypes that have haunted all women they can rise to the occasion.
    We women in America send our warmest wishes and blessing and join all forces to stop violence against women no matter which continent they reside and we ask our brothers to help to stop these acts of terror and violence. .

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  • friend of pakistan
    Feb 28, 2012 - 9:59AM

    go pakistan go…and celebrate it like we celebrated when a.r rahman did it for us

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  • friend of pakistan
    Feb 28, 2012 - 10:02AM

    i was watching oscars on tv while i saw Sharmeen winning the award…i clapped for her………love from india

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  • Pak
    Feb 28, 2012 - 10:03AM

    Ugly Face of Pakistan for the whole world to see. Nothing to rejoice about but to hang our heads in shame.

    What is there to be proud of? That we have stooped low to the level of beasts in the treatment of fellow human? Throw acid on women’s faces? Female MPA Waheeda Shah slapping another female teacher for doing her election duty honestly? This is who and what we are; the real Pakistan. Red carpet Oscar glamor is not real Pakistan.

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  • Engineer
    Feb 28, 2012 - 11:20AM

    Throwing acid on the face of any human being is a vile act and must be condemned. This problem and other atrocities are prevalent all over the world. It only hurts to think how badly this portrays Pakistan’s image in the eyes of the world, now that this documentary has grabbed the attention of so many…. more bad rep for Pakistan… thank you Shermeen… thank you Oscar panelists….

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  • nevaland
    Feb 28, 2012 - 6:30PM

    If Mukhtaran Mae could achieve stardom and bring justice to herself (say partially) to atrocities done to her , why not Sharmeen could have joined the hands and take victims of this heinous crime to Oscar events and let them take the award (and the prize money too) as a gesture to thank them and sharing their part of lives with Sharmeen. Its a proud moment for Pakistan, but just a moment remember. I really hope the girls shown in the documentary get justice, I mean, really get justice out of this! And I hope its not just for glitz and glamor of our inner mean selves!Recommend

  • Abbas
    Feb 28, 2012 - 11:55PM

    Pak, wake up… it happens in Pakistan. It’s not like she is making something up… obviously it does not happen to most women, but she is portraying the truth, a truth most people don’t like to talk about. You and I both know that people suffer from acid attacks in Pakistan and there is a general reluctance to acknowledge this, let alone do something about it.

    Rather than showing the beautiful mountains or whatever good image of Pakistan some of us want portrayed, Sharmeen has shown something that could wake up the nation, policymakers etc into actually doing something to counter a real problem… not the superficial image problem Pakistani tourists and expats face when dealing with foreigners.

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  • Feb 29, 2012 - 3:14PM

    We are proud of you Sharmeen Chinoy for a commendable job done. Although, much of the Pakistanis might not be very much familiar with the background and identity of you and your daring documentary; yet, it is not less than treading on thorns while voicing on any feminine related issue in our stereotyped society. We have the history to have our one of the enlightened Governor of Province of Punjab brutally murdered on account of petty religious differences. Of course, we live in a very intolerant society strongly dominated by religious obscurant clergy and so called progressive land lords and tribal hooligans. Sharmeen will obviously be a beacon of light for the oppression women folk of our country.

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  • G. Din
    Feb 29, 2012 - 5:28PM

    @Pak:
    “Ugly Face of Pakistan for the whole world to see. Nothing to rejoice about but to hang our heads in shame.”
    Now, that you have been properly shamed, do something about it! Resolve that women around you , your spouse, your sister, your mother, your girl-child shall breathe free as you do yourself!

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  • Panda Pasha
    Feb 29, 2012 - 8:59PM

    @Pakistan human being is a vile act and must be condemned. This problem and other atrocities are prevalent all over the world. It only hurts to think how badly this portrays Pakistan’s image in the eyes of the world, now that this documentary has grabbed the attention of so many

    Why are you so ashamed that your fellow brothers did these vile acts? If you knew about them then what does it say about the silence? That is the image the world has of Pakistan.
    The fact that this documentary has grabbed the attention is good because many like you are great critics but provide no solutions. If you do not like these acts of violence then be a part of the change so we do not have to spotlight these issues.

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