KARACHI: After the recent imbroglio where Oscar winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy came under criticism for allegedly not obtaining the consent of the acid attack survivors in Saving Face before airing the documentary, the film-maker has come under fire again.
Rukhsana, an acid attack survivor featured in the documentary, 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 fulfill any of her promises.
Rukhsana told Express News that Obaid-Chinoy made her sign “blank papers” with these terms, but failed to deliver. “In our family we wear the topi-burqa (face veil),” said Rukhsana. “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,” she deplored.
The acid attack survivor also claimed that she had sent a legal notice to the filmmaker through a lawyer.
Local newspapers reported that Obaid-Chinoy had promised to construct a house on “five marla” (approx 150 square foot) plot in Multan.
While talking to Express News, Obaid-Chinoy said that no documentary-maker would ever promise such a thing because it is unethical. “I have made 16 films in 10 countries and nothing of this sort has ever happened.”
She added, however, that a donor had expressed his desire of buying 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 concerns about her identity being made public after the film was released, 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 attack survivor. “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 levelling allegations against her after many months have 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 about informing the world about acid attacks. And now she is telling them that I had promised her things?”
Despite the accusations being leveled against her, Obaid-Chinoy reiterated that people should help Rukhsana. “We still want to help her, but our hands are tied. The survivors 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, 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.
Published in The Express Tribune, June 29th, 2012.
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