Pakistan's hit-and-miss with the Oscars

Published: September 14, 2019

KARACHI  : Since the rebirth of Pakistani Cinema with Khuda Kay Liye (2007), local film-makers have come a long way. While the industry at large, including the award shows, have grown simultaneously, our race at the Oscars remains a bit of a hit and miss. We are yet to bag a nomination in the Foreign Language Film category while Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy has made quite a mark as a documentary film-maker on the world map.

In 2013, Pakistan’s Academy Selection Committee was formed which has since then submitted seven films for Oscar consideration, none of which have managed to bag a nomination in the Best Foreign Language Film category.



Chinoy received Academy Awards for the category of Best Short Subject Documentary for her films Saving face (2012) and A Girl in the River (2015).


Saving face focused on the plight of acid attack victims in Pakistan. It made Chinoy Pakistan’s first Oscar recipient for the category of short subject documentaries. After which her short film about honour killing, A Girl in the River: The price of forgiveness, focused on the honour killings in Pakistan also won an Oscar.

Never the less, according to the documented history of Pakistani cinema, aside from the films that may have been submitted personally, the first film that was ever submitted for an oscar consideration was in the 1950s and the last was this year’s Laal Kabootar

Here is a trip down memory lane about Pakistani cinema’s struggle with the Oscars.

Laal Kabootar (2019)



Kamal Khan’s critically acclaimed film, Laal Kabootar, was recently selected for submission. The film-maker took to social media to share the good news. “Something for us all to be proud of as a team. All the sweat and hard work was worth it,” said Khan.
The film stars Mansha Pasha, Ahmed Ali Akbar, Ali Kazmi and it revolves around the gritty and raw life of Karachi.

Cake (2018)


Asim Abbasi’s Cake was the most talked-about film of 2018. It also received international acclaim, including a thumbs up from the Bollywood film-maker, Anurag Kashyap who rated the film  4 out of 5.

Saawan (2017)


This film revolved around the nine-year-old Saawan, who is a polio patient and gets separated from his parents. Shot in the Northern areas, the narrative followed his journey in finding them whilst child trafficking and the plight of polio workers were also highlighted.

Mah-e-Mir (2016)1186316-mahemir-1474522793-796-640x480

The film starring Fahad Mustafa, Imaan Ali and Manzar Sehbai, also made it to the list of submissions. It focused on the life of Jamal, played by Fahad Mustafa, who becomes obsessed with the works of Mir Taqi Mir.

Moor (2015)55f18b8071a76

Hollywood Reporter called Moor the dark horse of the Oscar’s Foreign-Language category in 2015. It was hailed as ‘offering an alternative voice in the country’s landscape.’ The film’s breath-taking emotional journey of a mother gave hope that Pakistani cinema will not be taken as an extension of Bollywood.

Dukhtar (2014)541adfb15b216

Highlighting the issue of forced marriages, the story revolved around a mother, played by Samiya Mumtaz who pretends to have her 10-year-old daughter kidnapped, to protect her from a marriage with an old man.

Zinda Bhaag (2013)5232c8438c76d

The film was Pakistan’s first submission after 50 years, marking the cinema’s voice on a global scale. It revolved around three youngsters who trampled across several dangers on the verge of finding a way out of the country.

Ghunghat (1963)

Starring Santosh Kumar and Laila, Ghunghat won several awards in Pakistan and became the country’s second submission to the Oscars.

Jago, Hua Savera (1959)

Finally, Jago Hua Sawera, a film surrounding the plight of a fisherman’s family became the first to ever make it’s way to the Academy Award submissions and receive astounding recognition at the Cannes Film Festival. The film was written by Faiz Ahmed Faiz and directed by AJ Kardar.

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