Saving Face: Pakistan’s golden moment

Published: February 27, 2012
Daniel Jung and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy with the Oscar for  Best Documentary (short) for Saving Face. PHOTO: AFP

Daniel Jung and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy with the Oscar for Best Documentary (short) for Saving Face. PHOTO: AFP

For Pakistan, 2012 could not have started on a sweeter note. If Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy scoring an Academy Award nomination for her documentary Saving Face in the category of Best Documentary (Short Subject) wasn’t good enough, then her getting to take home the Oscar this Sunday night at the 84th Academy Awards presentation, definitely was. With the entire nation rejoicing at her victory, it seemed she had won the Oscar for all of Pakistan.

Obaid-Chinoy is the first Pakistani to receive an Oscar and hopes to screen her award-winning film at local schools, colleges, universities and communities to raise awareness about the victims of acid violence. Saving Face will air on HBO on March 8 in the US. According to a press release, Obaid-Chinoy has produced 16 critically acclaimed films, all of which have been aired internationally.

About Saving Face

Detailing the work of a British-Pakistani plastic surgeon, Dr Mohammad Jawad, Saving Face chronicles the doctor’s travels across Pakistan as he performs reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid violence. Being one of the cruellest forms of violence and abuse, acid attacks are underreported in Pakistan but still, at least 150 cases are filed every year.

Obaid-Chinoy’s documentary highlights the struggles and endurance demonstrated by these abused women despite their difficult circumstances. The film was shot entirely in Pakistan, mostly on the Seraiki belt, in addition to Rawalpindi, Karachi and Islamabad.

Encouraging words

Pakistani film-maker Adnan Malik commented on Obaid-Chinoy’s win, “I feel like I have woken up to a new chapter in Pakistan’s history. Sharmeen has diligently stuck to her dreams and she is a fantastic Pakistani ambassador. This Oscar is for the entire nation and it has broken the floodgates of what Pakistanis are capable of. Pakistani arts are now firmly entrenched on the world map.”

On the other hand, Hasan Zaidi, a journalist and film-maker enthusiastically said, “You can knock us down and watch us bleed but you can’t keep chains on Pakistanis. Way to go Sharmeen, you have made us proud and I am sure there are many more Oscars coming our way.”

Ammar Aziz, a rising film-maker, also shared his feelings on Obaid-Chinoy’s accomplishment. “This is a victory for the medium of documentaries. They have never been given much importance in our state. Now is the time to celebrate our growing tradition of documentary film-making and realism.”

Proud students

One of Obaid-Chinoy’s students Muzna Qamar quipped about the win, “This is a proud moment for the Media Science students of Szabist. She is a talented teacher and I am thrilled to say I worked on a public service message for her called ‘Acid Attack’. Congratulations to you Ma’am Sharmeen.”

Rida Salman, one of Obaid-Chinoy’s students also said, “Being taught by her was one of the best experiences in my four years at Szabist. Her dedication and professionalism reflected in everything she said and taught. One needs to learn the art of storytelling and bringing reality to screen in its rawest form from Sharmeen.”

Obaid-Chinoy’s response

Calling the achievement “her dream come true” and the feeling “indescribable”, Obaid-Chinoy encouraged other young Pakistani film-makers to continue their aspirations in this field. Dedicating the award to her film’s primary subjects Rukhsana and Zakia, she ended on a positive note, “Pakistan was in the news today for all the right reasons and I am thrilled that we are now recognised as artists and storytellers.”

Red carpet glory

Walking the red carpet with her husband Fahad Chinoy, Sharmeen wore custom Pakistani couturier Bunto Kazmi’s creation with jewellery exclusively designed by Kiran Aman of Kiran Fine Jewellery. She kept the Pakistani spirit alive by also putting on an ensemble by leading fashion designers Sana Safinaz with exclusive jewellery by Sherezad Rahimtoola for the Oscars after-party.

With additional reporting by Saba Khalid and Sher Khan

Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2012.

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Reader Comments (49)

  • Jeoff!
    Feb 27, 2012 - 10:30PM

    Great Job Pakistan. From a country burnt and destroyed, comes a marvel. Good Luck Pakistan.


  • Ali Wazir
    Feb 27, 2012 - 10:36PM

    I am surprised by everyone “Proud of Pakistan for wining the Oscars”. Sure its a great personal achievement of the Director Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, But as Pakistani the predominant feeling should be of shame.
    Shame of living in a country where Acid attacks are routine. Shame for the fact this is the only way Pakistan gets press in the world.
    Being proud of this makes almost as much sense as German person feeling pride on “Schnidler List” wining the Oscar.
    As for the Director I sincerely hope she once her life highlights something positive about this wretched country. Of course her work is in English and never been aired in Pakistan.
    Her other works include: Pakistan Double game,Reinventing the Taliban,Terrors Children, Lifting the Veil, Pakistan Taliban Children, Transgender: Pakistan Open Secret.
    Looks lot like Paksploitation Cinema.


  • bobby
    Feb 27, 2012 - 10:37PM

    So does this mean that America is no longer a filthy oppressive zionist land? Phew!


  • fahim
    Feb 27, 2012 - 10:38PM

    good job, but now the entire world knows how we treat our women like animals, burn , put acid, put in cage etc… its the most shameful and pathetic aspect of our society that entire world is watching in glory…


  • Mohammad Ali Siddiqui
    Feb 27, 2012 - 10:43PM

    Sharmeen has won the Oscar Award but the question is will the people who through acid on women faces will stop throwing the acid?

    Will it benefit for the society?

    Will it change the mental state of the sick men not to perform such act of brutality?

    Will it shake the conscious of people who are involved in such a heinous crime?

    Still Sharmeen has to do a lot of work after winning the Oscar Award.

    She should step forward and go in the remote and far flung areas of the country, where such ugly incidents occur time and again.

    May Al-Mighty Allah save the women of Pakistan from such people who despite being human beings but act inhumanly. Ameen.


  • ProudPakistani
    Feb 27, 2012 - 10:44PM

    Job well done Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. You have made us Proud. Something to cheer. Way to go my people, this is just a start. Thumbs up if You agree


  • Cautious
    Feb 27, 2012 - 10:50PM

    Excellent job – goes to prove that rather than hiding issues your better off putting them under a spotlight so you can fix them.


  • Feb 27, 2012 - 10:56PM

    Congrats Pakistan :))))))


  • Feb 27, 2012 - 10:57PM

    A small step of saving face documentry would lead to a giant step for mankind for stopping honour killings in Pakistan
    Acid is readily obtained in Pakistan because it is a product widely used in the nation’s dominant textile industry. 100 acid attacks are reported every year in Pakistan but many more go unreported. The attacks are often done in violent retaliation by a rebuffed suitor or a would-be marriage partner.
    In Baluchistan where acid is not readily available recently the perpetuators buried three women alive and shot dead two others. The reason for doing so is known to punish the three girls, aged 16 to 18, for trying to decide their marriages.

    Pakistanis should support “The Acid Survivors Foundation in Islamabad” and pressure Feudal Lords aka selected representatives to pass the bill for regulating sale of Acid and preventing honour killings.Recommend

  • Azim
    Feb 27, 2012 - 11:01PM

    Every society has some evils – from africa to china to india and to other parts of world. However only those societies are able to change for good where people within the society are ready to challenge and stand against such evil. Today;

    I stand proud and thank Sharmeen for what she has tried to tell us about us, something we never want to talk about or listen to
    I stand proud of Sharmeen for doing all this as a women in a society which has shown lack of respect and opportunity for women
    And more then any thing else I also stand proud of Pakistan, where women like Sharmeen are able to say and do things the way they want, this is the same Pakistan who we blame for not giving fundamental rights to women

    I am proud of spirit behind the work sharmeen is doing, and so am proud of all those like Sharmeen fighting to for the right. So, lets see this as a new start, and thank Sharmeen for giving us a great one!


  • Noman
    Feb 27, 2012 - 11:08PM

    it is’nt helping presenting soft image of pakistan rather a cruel nation, such an issue should have been raised at government level and policies and planes should have been made to avoid such disturbing acts in spite of showing all the world. such a shame!!


  • Pinky
    Feb 27, 2012 - 11:10PM

    congratulations sharmeen! :)


  • smj
    Feb 27, 2012 - 11:31PM

    Job is done by Sharmeen to show on world’s stage what is going on in this society. It is now Pakistanis job to correct the wrong doings. Putting these issues under the rug, so that Pakistan will not get anymore bad name is not wise.


  • Najia H Khan
    Feb 27, 2012 - 11:46PM

    I am surprised to read some of the comments here about how wrong it was to make this documentary as it shows Pakistan in a bad light and so on and so forth. I wish people stopped this hyperpatriotic nonsense and looked at things from the victims’ point of view. These women are wronged by the men they trusted, married, had children with or in some cases were ‘loved’ by them and then were mutilated because of whatever twisted reasons or thoughts those men were harbouring. Sharmeen Chinoy has dared to expose their plight to the entire world and that should only be commended and not criticised for the wrong reasons. All these fellow pakistanis who are getting their knickers in a twist about Pakistan’s reputation should just think how they would feel if they had acid thrown onto their faces! The pain, the horrible, immense pain, of the acid burning on to your face and eyes, of losing face (literally!), of losing trust, of living in fear, of never being able to look at themselves in the mirror without cringing, of watching others cringe when they look at them, pain of being left alone and I can just keep adding to this list of loss and unfairness. And then there are people like Dr Jawad, like Sharmeen Chinoy who step forward and tell the world that this needs to stop, and tell those poor women that they have a voice, that they dont have to suffer in silence because we know that they are suffering. Would you not want that if you or your loved one was a victim? Shame on you lot who lack all ability to empathise…shame on you!


  • Abbas
    Feb 27, 2012 - 11:49PM

    To those who think she only portrays a negative image of Pakistan in her films, wake up… she is portraying the truth. You and I both know that people suffer from acid attacks in Pakistan and there is a general reluctance to acknowledge this, let alone do something about it.

    Rather than showing the beautiful mountains or whatever good image of Pakistan some of us want portrayed, Sharmeen has shown something that could wake up the nation, policymakers etc into actually doing something to counter a real problem… not the superficial image problem Pakistani tourists and expats face when dealing with foreigners.

    Sharmeen, you are a star. I can’t wait to see this documentary :)


  • G. Din
    Feb 28, 2012 - 12:14AM

    It is the Muslim woman who will liberate Islam and drag it to the twenty-first century willy-nilly!


  • Feb 28, 2012 - 12:20AM

    Congrats Sharmeen!

    What you and your fellow social entrepreneurs are doing in Pakistan’s unhealthy culture of complaints is truly inspirational. Let’s hope others will follow in your footsteps to light candles and not just curse darkness.


  • Giri
    Feb 28, 2012 - 12:23AM

    But Qadri is still more popular than Sharmeen at any time…


  • Ahsan Nisar
    Feb 28, 2012 - 12:41AM

    What a forgetful nation we are…!!! While rejoicing Ms. Chinoy’s victory for being awarded Oscar after 84 years, we have completely forgotten PPP’s MPA Waheeda Shah’s episode of slapping a teacher (A woman slapping a woman). So much for “saving face”…!!!

    I would like to ask why hasn’t any feminist NGO taken up the issue so far??? Indeed, some marks take more time to heal than acid burns…!!!


  • Enlightened
    Feb 28, 2012 - 12:41AM

    Oscar awards on foreign films are just a tool that is used for foreign policy reasons. United States either trying to mend differences or have some aggressive future plans with Pakistan…It is always helpful to keep a lid on premature exhuberence – just a thought!


  • Hk-29
    Feb 28, 2012 - 12:56AM

    Proud of her…but not feeling proud to be a Pakistani…the world only knows us as acid throwing terrorists!


  • Akbar Alah Abadi
    Feb 28, 2012 - 1:01AM

    Indeed a great news for all of us.
    Sharmeen has done us proud, and in this hour we should also commemorate Marvi Memon’s efforts in passing the Acid Protection Bill in NA
    Paksitan women are rising!


  • SubbKaBaap
    Feb 28, 2012 - 1:35AM

    For those worried about how ‘Saving Face’ may negatively impact Pakistanis:
    Were you aware that acid attacks take place in Pakistan?
    If yes, did you do anything at all about it (individually or as part of a collective movement)?

  • Gulkhaiz
    Feb 28, 2012 - 1:47AM

    I think some of the comments are unrealistic and unnecessarily criticize Sharmeen. Please treat her as a film maker and a communicator par excellence, which she is without any doubt. We all know that film making is an art and means of communicating the desired themes. In case of her film “saving face” she has very effectively communicated a gruesome aspect of acid throwing in our society. This does not mean that other cultures do not have the skeletons in their cupboards. E.g. 50% of the children born to women under 30 years of age in USA are illegitimate. Horrifying, is it not disgusting for a society which is suppose to be most organized and great proponent of morality? Statistics reflects Stone Age family structure. But healthy societies do not perpetually indulge in breast beating. They identify the weakness and communicate it to the people at large, with the purpose of shaping right values and attitudes. This is what the purpose of film is all about. Nonetheless Sharmeen has made us all proud and set a pace for film makers of Pakistan to follow her suit.


  • TightChuddi
    Feb 28, 2012 - 1:51AM

    Pakistan shining, India whining…


  • Michael Robbins
    Feb 28, 2012 - 1:53AM

    Obviously referring to the United States, Hasan Zaidi, a journalist and film-maker enthusiastically said, “You can knock us down and watch us bleed but you can’t keep chains on Pakistanis”.

    Somehow Mr. Zaidi missed the point that it is Americans, by awarding the Oscar to Obaid-Chinoy’s documentary, are willing to appreciate a work of art in spite of the fact that the recipient of the award is a citizen of a country – Pakistan – known for its blatant hostility towards the United States.

    I wonder if there is any institution in Pakistan capable of impartiality and open-mindedness shown by the the 84th Academy Awards.

    More importantly, the documentary highlighted the oppressive attitude of society in Pakistan towards women and how it keeps women in chains (using Mr. Zaidi’s words).


  • K. Salim Jahangir
    Feb 28, 2012 - 2:00AM

    Sharmeen…..Congratulations!!! Those who are scolding Pakistan should be aware that it is illiteracy which breeds such vices in society.One may scold politicians who kept the nation illiterate over the past 64 years.Let the entire nation & in particular politicians learn from the message our,” Pakistan’s”Sharmeen has conveyed.Lots of prayers & Good Luck Sharmeen,we are,Pakistan is, proud of you!!!!


  • Rizwan Chaudhry
    Feb 28, 2012 - 2:08AM

    @Ali Wazir: Sorry Ali, but I vehemently disagree with you. Documentaries generally do focus on societal woes, and this film is no different. Pakistanis should be proud of her achievement, and allow the subject matter to resonate and change behaviors as a result.


  • Faheem
    Feb 28, 2012 - 2:09AM

    This is a classic case of bitter-sweetness. We are happy but we are unhappy.
    Nonetheless, you completed Iqbal’s definition of Shahee as an individual.


  • David Smith
    Feb 28, 2012 - 2:28AM

    She won a oscar but the shameful thing is what has ur country done about domestic violence against women n young girls? Shame on u pakistanis for supporting such a corrupt govt!


  • American Pakistani
    Feb 28, 2012 - 2:38AM

    @Najia H Khan We both know that most of our pakistanis are paranoid by birth. Always looking into conspiracy theories. But thanks for saying what you said. All this fake pride and brushing things under the rug serves no good.


  • Hussain Syed
    Feb 28, 2012 - 2:49AM

    @Ali Wazir:

    When Frontline makes documentaries on Chicago’s gang violences or the American methamphetamine trade we don’t say, “oh look, american exploitation documentaries”. Documentaries are meant to be hard hitting and touch on the corners that are both provocative and thought inducing. She herself says that she wants to bring about a discussion and change on the uneasy aspects of Pakistani society.


  • Its (still) the Economy Stupid
    Feb 28, 2012 - 3:07AM

    So is this going to be fifteen minutes of fame and back to business as usual? Where is publicity hogging politicians? How come no politician is coming forward and saying that the sale of acid will be limited to person with photo ID and a picture would be taken of the customer along with address? As a rule it should not be sold to anyone under the age of 30 etc.


  • Saqib
    Feb 28, 2012 - 3:12AM

    Well done… you have made us proud…. u have highlighted a very important and sensitive point and God bless you….


  • Calypso
    Feb 28, 2012 - 3:38AM

    Not a really “enlightened” comment seriously….


  • Taniya
    Feb 28, 2012 - 3:42AM

    Shocked by some of the negative comments , goes to prove we pakistanis are a nation of depressed people with a drag you down with me mindset. This is an achievment of such a large scale and by a young Pakistani woman who could have easily chosen to live a cushy life as an expat abroad.
    Those people who feel ashamed that these issues of pakistan were highlighted on an international scale need to wake up and smell the coffee, for these are real issues and what you need to be ashamed of is that they exist in pakistan not the fact that Sharmin has done a huge public service by creating awareness.
    any other country people would have rejoiced, such a shame that when Pakistan has a reason to show pride and happiness we as a nation nitpick and bring people down.


  • PakPunjabi
    Feb 28, 2012 - 4:32AM

    Congrats Sharmeen, you have made us proud and highlighted a very serious and barbaric problem. I hope more Pakistanis take up issues like this and create awareness among the common people.


  • Hammad Mian
    Feb 28, 2012 - 4:35AM

    By showing negative image of Pakistan winning Oscar. Shame on you Sharmeen Obaid.


  • Amjad
    Feb 28, 2012 - 4:50AM

    @Hk-29: I am indeed proud of her achievements and it shows the world that Pakistan wants to end violence against women. Incidentally there are more acid attacks against women in India and Bangladesh so women everywhere should celebrate highlighting women’s issues. As for your snide comment against Pakistanis and terrorism, you should know that Iran, Arab nations, Central Asian Chechens and Nigerian Muslims are perhaps more tainted with the accusation of being terrorists than Pakistanis but that shouldn’t dissuade any Muslim from working to better society!


  • yavi
    Feb 28, 2012 - 10:11AM

    Sharmeen!! I really do wnder hw u get to sleep peacefully at night., here is what she said in Emmy Awards……”Pakistan today is a failed state, All and I repeat al the childrn in Pakistan r at risk of being recruited by the taliban, The Army and the ISI continuously hounded her and avoided her making the documentary…..The schooling system all and I repeat all across Pakistan has failed and with 55% of the population undr the age of 18 years, the taliban hav a large populace to recruit from……whn askd by someone in the audience if thre was ny hope 4 Pakistan…..her reply was…….PAKISTAN IS LOST FOREVER……..This is how she portrayed Pakistan to gt applause frm the audience..”

    Some supports of Sharmeen who are tiredlessly claiming that Sharmeen has touched other topics as well, can those guys tell why on earth she got an award on a controversial movie like Children of Talibans but not on others. Can those “Experts” come up list of all his work which touched issues of Kashmir,Iraq and Israel occupation and awards she received against them?


  • Ahmer Ali
    Feb 28, 2012 - 10:47AM

    The other Pakistani directors who make substandard and stereotyped films must have to learn the lesson from Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy because she has proven her ability and hidden talent and the biggest internationally recognized award “Oscar Award” she got.


  • Feb 28, 2012 - 11:10AM

    Congratulations Sharmeen


  • K.RAO
    Feb 28, 2012 - 12:14PM

    Well its a good news for the film making in Pakistan and courageous representation. So many social evils are going unreported in India and Pakistan for fear of establishment or social stigma. I have seen a Pakistani film BOL recently about a daughter of a cruel father fighting for her young gay brother. I almost cried after seeing that film. It was an art of crisp story telling. I expected that to was worth the Oscar had it been noticed.
    Credit must go to doctor Mohammed Jawad too who has upheld a wonderful humanitarian cause! Wish him all the more success in his endeavour !
    I am proud that this award is for the sub continent and we share your joy so that it will enhance multifold !


  • Javad
    Feb 28, 2012 - 12:58PM

    Congratz to Sharmeen and Daniel Jung for making such a powerful film and highlighting issues our women are facing in our country!


  • Hari
    Feb 28, 2012 - 10:53PM

    @yavi: I hope this is an absurd allegation . Do you have a link to substantiate your statement?


  • Maulana Tharra
    Feb 28, 2012 - 10:58PM

    “Saving Face: Pakistan’s golden moment” (ET headline)

    Is it?
    Or should it be moment of collective shame?
    What is to be proud of when someone holds mirror to your ugly face?


  • Udaya Bose
    Feb 29, 2012 - 7:37PM

    Many in India were upset with what was depicted in Slumdog Millionaire. But that is the truth although it may have been dramatized somewhat for effect as happens in every film.
    Similarly, one should appreciate Sharmeen for what she has put together. If it helps to fight the menace, that will be more than an Oscar


  • Well wisher
    Feb 29, 2012 - 8:46PM

    Atta Girl Sharmeen. Pakistan needs more fighters like you. Keep rocking girl and enjoy the moment


  • Yavi
    Mar 1, 2012 - 10:39AM

    Let Sharmeen make a Movie against Israel’s violence in Gaza, India`s Violence in Kashmir or America’s violence in Afghanistan thn I will see how evn she get nominated for an award. But Sharmeen is wise, she will nt be on something which would put her life and career at stake.Recommend

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