Acid victim Rukhsana, featured in Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Oscar winning documentary Saving Face, has alleged that the filmmaker promised to give her Rs3 million and a house, and also promised to help her with plastic surgery for working in the film, but did not fulfil any of her promises.
Rukhsana told the media that Obaid-Chinoy made her sign blank papers but a year has passed and none of her promises have been fulfilled. “In our family we wear the topi-burqa… When she [Obaid-Chinoy] got the Oscar, the film was shown across the world. When my husband saw it, he expelled me from the house and even my parents stopped talking to me,” Rukhsana said.
The acid victim also claimed that she had sent a legal notice to the filmmaker through a lawyer.
A trend “JusticeForRukhsana” also started trending on Twitter after media reports covering Rukhsana’s allegations were published. The reports claimed that Obaid-Chinoy had promised Rukhsana Rs3 million, construction of a house on 5 Marla (approx 150sq-ft) plot in Multan and plastic surgery.
Obaid-Chinoy, while talking to Express News, said that no documentary-maker would ever promise anything because it is unethical. “I have made 16 films in 10 countries and nothing of this sort has ever happened.”
She however added that a donor had expressed his desire of getting Rukhsana a house after watching the film. “The donor wanted Rukhsana to be given a house as money can be snatched by anyone. Rukhsana, her husband and her children even went to see the house. We even have the pictures. But her husband refused to take the house and told Rukhsana that she can get more money instead.”
When asked about Rukhsana’s allegations of her identity being revealed through the film, Obaid-Chinoy said that Rukhsana was filmed in her village in front of her parents. “Her parents were interviewed, her husband was also interviewed. If they did not know about the film, how come they are interviewed in it?”
She also clarified that she had not received any legal notice from the acid victim. “On what basis will I get a legal notice? Does she have any papers or documents? Legal cases can only be initiated when you have some proof… Why would I make her sign blank pages? What would I want from her?”
The filmmaker also questioned why Rukhsana is coming on the media and levelling allegations against her after so many months had passed since she received the Oscar. “When the Oscars took place, she went to newspapers and other media and told everyone that she was happy for informing the world about acid attacks. And now she is coming on the media to say that I had promised her things?”
But, she appealed that people should help Rukhsana as she is a victim. “We still want to help her, but our hands are tied. Victims and the Acid Survivors Foundation have moved a civil court appealing that Saving Face should not be aired in Pakistan. If I give money to Rukhsana through donors at this moment, won’t the court say that I’m bribing her to get my film aired?”
When asked about the royalty Rukhsana has demanded for working in her film, Sharmeen said, “What royalty? We had announced that whenever anyone watches the movie in Pakistan, the money would go to the victims. But the movie is not being allowed to run in the country.”
Obaid-Chinoy had also earlier insisted that the women featured in the film signed legal documents allowing the film to be shown anywhere in the world, including Pakistan.
Saving Face, a 40-minute film, focuses on Zakia and Rukhsana as they fight to rebuild their lives after being attacked by their husbands, and British Pakistani plastic surgeon Mohammad Jawad who tries to help repair their shattered looks.