On a glittering night of cinema’s biggest stage, the unexpected climaxed in the unbelievable.
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy became the first Pakistani to win an Academy Award, one of world’s most coveted accolades.
Obaid-Chinoy won the Oscar for Best Documentary (short) for Saving Face, a documentary on the victims of acid attacks in Pakistan – which she co-directed with American Daniel Junge.
On stage at the 84th Annual Academy Awards, an ecstatic but composed Obaid-Chinoy paid tribute to the women of Pakistan: “Women’s bravery and resilience in the face of adversity inspires me every single day,” she said. “They are the true heroes of Pakistan.
“Don’t give up on your dreams. This is for you.”
While her documentary won the hearts of the Academy Award jury, her success, it seems, has won the heart of the nation.
Soon after receiving the industry’s most coveted accolade, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani led the tributes to Chinoy, 33, saying that she would be given a “high civil award” for her achievement.
The congratulatory messages seemed unending.
President Asif Ali Zardari also felicitated Obaid-Chinoy by sending a message that her efforts for highlighting with utmost sensibility a sensitive topic of acid attacks on women and creativity were appreciated.
Amongst other political leaders who expressed their jubilation and appreciation of Chinoy’s work were Chairman Senate Farooq H Naek, Deputy Chairman Senate Mir Jan Muhammed Jamali and Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain.
‘Saving Face’ chronicles the work of British-Pakistani plastic surgeon Mohammad Jawad, who performed reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid attacks in Pakistan.
The social media and electronic media also went viral, erupting with joy at news of the Oscar, showering praise for her win.
“The women who decided to be a part of the documentary did so because they wanted to make their voices heard and wanted to bring attention to this form of assault,” Obaid-Chinoy said, speaking before she won the Oscar.
“The main reason that they are in ‘Saving Face’ is to make their stories heard and have an impact.”
‘Saving Face’ is set to air on American cable television network HBO on March 8, while Obaid-Chinoy is also planning to screen the documentary at local schools, colleges and universities. “We’re going to try to find the best possible way to show the film while ensuring that the women in the film are safe,” she said.
“It is a story of hope with a powerful message for the Pakistani audience. I felt this would be a great way to show how Pakistanis can help other Pakistanis overcome their problems,” she said.
Obaid-Chinoy’s family lauds her achievement
Where film enthusiasts throughout the country celebrated Pakistan’s Oscar moment, the family of the victorious film-maker remained overwhelmed by the love Pakistanis have given her in return.
“It is an amazing achievement by Sharmeen, she has brought so much honour to the family and above all the whole country,” said Obaid-Chinoy’s mother Saba Obaid, while addressing a press conference at the SOC (Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy) Films office on Monday afternoon.
“This recognition is the result of the effort put in by [her],” said Asad Faruqi, the director of photography of the documentary.
“The mere fact that she has won an Oscar reflects how honest she was to her struggle of highlighting the issue of acid victims in Pakistan,” he said.
The observational documentary which was shot over the period of one and a half years was shot entirely in Pakistan with a large chunk of local crew members.
(WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING FROM RAFAY MAHMOOD FROM KARACHI)
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2012.