Pakistani journalist and documentarian Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s latest venture Saving Face has won an Oscar award under the category ‘Best Documentary, Short Subject’.
In her acceptance speech, Chinoy dedicated the award to “all the heroes working on the ground in Pakistan” including British Pakistani plastic surgeon Dr Mohammad Jawad, main subjects of the documentary and the women of Pakistan.
“All the women in Pakistan working for change, don't give up on your dreams, this is for you,” she said.
Dedicating the award to main subjects Rukhsana and Zakia, Obaid-Chinoy said that their “resilience and bravery in the face of such adversary is admirable”.
Co-director Daniel Junge said he had the idea for the film after hearing about Jawad, and asked Chinoy to work with him. He has been previously nominated for an both an Oscar and an Emmy.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani has also announced a civilian award for Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.
A proud Saba Obaid addressed the media later in the day, stating that the film will bring a positive change in the country and in policy making. The director’s mother also hoped that this will help bring an end to crimes against women in Pakistan.
“We did talk to her… she wanted to know how it was. We said we can’t believe it. Nobody in the family had slept all night,” said Saba Obaid. She said Sharmeen will speak at Asia Society in New York and then at a TED Talk in Los Angeles and will return home in 8 to 10 days.
Saba Obaid said that she had always encouraged her daughters to become what they want. “Sharmeen went into filmmaking… an unusual line. She went into this and got respect,” she said. The director’s mother also emphasised that it was important encourage girls to receive education and go forward.
Asad Farouqi, the cameraman for Saving Face, was all praise for Obaid-Chinoy as well. He said that it was a big achievement that learning and working in Pakistan she had managed to make it to the Oscar Awards.
“Our programming is focused on showing a positive image of Pakistan,” said Farouqi. He said the real purpose of the documentary was to create awareness and that it was commendable that this had brought Pakistanis together and had them reacting in a positive manner.
Saba Obaid later read a message from Sharmeen:
I am deeply humbled and blown away by the outpour... and the well wishes I have received. It is an indescribable feeling and a dream come true.
This is for all the budding filmmakers who think that their work will not be appreciated. If I can do it so can you.
Today Pakistan was in the news for all the right reasons and I am thrilled that we are now recognised as artists and storytellers.
Zakia, Rukhsana, this one is for you.
“To win ... and with such a subject - it's such an honour,” he said.
The documentary Saving Face chronicles the work of Dr Jawad, who performed reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid attacks in Pakistan.
The documentary, which is filmed across Islamabad, Rawalpindi and the small towns of Punjab, was released in the US in November. It is due to release in the UK in March 2012, following which it will be released in Pakistan.
“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,” Chinoy said in an interview conducted before she won the Oscar.
“The main reason that they are in Saving Face is to make their stories heard and have an impact.” Many victims are women attacked by their husbands, and others assaulted for turning down a proposal of marriage. One girl in the documentary describes how she was burned after rejecting the advances of her teacher. She was 13 at the time.
Another woman featured in the film is 25-year-old Rukhsana, whose husband threw acid on her and her sister-in-law doused her in gasoline before her mother-in-law lit a match and set her on fire.
Chinoy said she hopes the cases in her film will resonate for others in Pakistan.
“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.
Chinoy's films have won international acclaim. Her 2010 documentary, Pakistan's Taliban Generation, won an International Emmy Award.
At the ceremony, Obaid-Chinoy chose to wear female designers, from her clothes and her jewellery.
“I am wearing Bunto Kazmi for the ceremony and will be wearing Sana Safinaz and Saniya Maskatiya for Oscar-related events. My jewellery will be done by Kiran Aman of Kiran Fine Jewellery and Sherezad Rahimtoola of Labels. I am really excited to showcase local Pakistani talent, and that too all women,” revealed Chinoy.
President Zardari felicitates Obaid-Chinoy
President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday felicitated filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on winning an Oscar award for Pakistan on her documentary Saving Face.
The president, in a message, appreciated Obaid-Chinoy for highlighting a sensitive topic of acid attacks on women with utmost sensibility and creativity.
He said the country’s artists had all the potential to thrive and prove their skills in the field of arts and culture.
The president lauded the filmmaker for bringing laurels to the country by excelling in film-making and sending a message to the world about Pakistan’s softer image.