Asad Faruqi saw the Academy Awards ceremony for the first time in his life this Monday morning. But he can’t recall what happened after the film in which he worked as a cameraman, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s Saving Face, won an Oscar for the Best Documentary-Short Subject category.
The 26-year-old Faruqi said that he “never expected” the film to make it to the Oscars. Now that it has done exactly that, the graduate of the Shaheed Zulfikar Ali Bhutto Institute of Science and Technology (Szabist) hopes that this award will help convince families that are reluctant to send their children to film school that the profession is worth pursuing.
Faruqi was born and schooled in Hyderabad. He and his family relocated to Karachi after his father’s death, and continued his studies at The City School. He enrolled into the media sciences programme at Szabist, which provided him with the chance to learn more about this specific craft.
Incidentally, Faruqi was not destined for film school at the beginning. “I studied chartered accountancy for two years but realised that it is not what I wanted to do. I wanted to be a journalist and specifically do war photography. I then met Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy. She saw my work and said that she needed someone to work on her documentary, Pakistan’s Taliban Generation.”
Faruqi ended up shooting what became one of the most important parts of the film. “The embassy didn’t allow the producer, who was a British national, to go to Swat as it was still under Taliban’s control. We had only four hours to decide what to do and ultimately I went in with Sharmeen and we got back out from there the same day. My work was appreciated by everyone and Sharmeen chose me as the main cameraman for her future films.”
It seemed pure luck that Faruqi was able to work at all in that documentary, which later won an International Emmy. He had broken his leg and was limping on the first day of the documentary’s shooting. He said that Saving Face was his second major project with Obaid-Chinoy. “I injured my back during this one. I guess it’s a sign, that I suffer an injury and then we win an award,” he joked.
Unlike many of his colleagues who gripe about not getting recognition for their work behind the scenes, Faruqi was quick to give credit where he thought it was due. “At the end of the day, this is Sharmeen’s story. It features the director’s vision. Above all, it is a documentary; we are not supposed to be the face of it. It is about the victims and we’re glad that it has gained such widespread attention.”
The making of Saving Face, which focuses on a plastic surgeon that performs reconstructive surgery on acid attack survivors, proved to be a trying experience for the crew, given that they had to hear harrowing tales of the survivors. “There are times when you become so engrossed with the whole thing,” said Faruqi. “I used to feel angry. Their (the survivors’) words would go through me, so there’s that lens through which the audience gets to hear them. But I channelled that anger into my work, so that my visuals could speak for themselves.”
Faruqi planned to celebrate with his family and friends on Monday night. “I’m not the most talented cameraman out there,” admitted Faruqi. “The job involves a lot of hard work and a bit of luck as well. But this award has motivated me to pursue more challenging projects.”
Published in The Express Tribune, February 28th, 2012.