Our Oscar moment: Take a bow, Sharmeen

Published: February 28, 2012
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy accepts the Oscar for the Best Documentary (Short Subject) for the film “Saving Face” at the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California. PHOTO: REUTERS

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy accepts the Oscar for the Best Documentary (Short Subject) for the film “Saving Face” at the 84th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California. PHOTO: REUTERS


On a glittering night of cinema’s biggest stage, the unexpected climaxed in the unbelievable.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy became the first Pakistani to win an Academy Award, one of world’s most coveted accolades.

Obaid-Chinoy won the Oscar for Best Documentary (short) for Saving Face, a documentary on the victims of acid attacks in Pakistan – which she co-directed with American Daniel Junge.

On stage at the 84th Annual Academy Awards, an ecstatic but composed Obaid-Chinoy paid tribute to the women of Pakistan: “Women’s bravery and resilience in the face of adversity inspires me every single day,” she said. “They are the true heroes of Pakistan.

“Don’t give up on your dreams. This is for you.”

While her documentary won the hearts of the Academy Award jury, her success, it seems, has won the heart of the nation.

Soon after receiving the industry’s most coveted accolade, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani led the tributes to Chinoy, 33, saying that she would be given a “high civil award” for her achievement.

The congratulatory messages seemed unending.

President Asif Ali Zardari also felicitated Obaid-Chinoy by sending a message that her efforts for highlighting with utmost sensibility a sensitive topic of acid attacks on women and creativity were appreciated.

Amongst other political leaders who expressed their jubilation and appreciation of Chinoy’s work were Chairman Senate Farooq H Naek, Deputy Chairman Senate Mir Jan Muhammed Jamali and Muttahida Qaumi Movement chief Altaf Hussain.

‘Saving Face’ chronicles the work of British-Pakistani plastic surgeon Mohammad Jawad, who performed reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid attacks in Pakistan.

The social media and electronic media also went viral, erupting with joy at news of the Oscar, showering praise for her win.

“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,” Obaid-Chinoy said, speaking before she won the Oscar.

“The main reason that they are in ‘Saving Face’ is to make their stories heard and have an impact.”

‘Saving Face’ is set to air on American cable television network HBO on March 8, while Obaid-Chinoy is also planning to screen the documentary at local schools, colleges and universities. “We’re going to try to find the best possible way to show the film while ensuring that the women in the film are safe,” she said.

“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.

Obaid-Chinoy’s family lauds her achievement

Where film enthusiasts throughout the country celebrated Pakistan’s Oscar moment, the family of the victorious film-maker remained overwhelmed by the love Pakistanis have given her in return.

“It is an amazing achievement by Sharmeen, she has brought so much honour to the family and above all the whole country,” said Obaid-Chinoy’s mother Saba Obaid, while addressing  a press conference at the SOC (Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy) Films office on Monday afternoon.

“This recognition is the result of the effort put in by [her],” said Asad Faruqi, the director of photography of the documentary.

“The mere fact that she has won an Oscar reflects how honest she was to her struggle of highlighting the issue of acid victims in Pakistan,” he said.

The observational documentary which was shot over the period of one and a half years was shot entirely in Pakistan with a large chunk of local crew members.

(Read: You have done us proud, Sharmeen!)


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

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Reader Comments (20)

  • aysha
    Feb 28, 2012 - 6:05AM

    Thank you Karachi, for doing this for Pakistan


  • Akthar
    Feb 28, 2012 - 6:49AM

    strong textAll Glory to Sharmeen & Disgrace to the Nation. strong text

    “Obaid-Chinoy won the Oscar for Best Documentary (short) for Saving Face, a documentary on the victims of acid attacks in Pakistan “

    Saving Face? The nation lost its face in front of the world. Now, this movie will become popular around the world and Pakistani Muslims will be demonized further, if they arent already. The world will Stereo Type an average Paki Muslim as someone whose a Acid thrower and women abuser. Already, theres honour killing by British/American/Canadian Pakistani muslims and this documentary will reinforce that Pakistani`s are like this.

    Its a wonderful strategy where most of us are happy that a Paki won the Oscar but on the other hand, all of Pakistan has been disgraced. Shame on us who are rejoicing.


  • Khalid waseem
    Feb 28, 2012 - 6:49AM

    SOC, well done, feels like Jinnah ka Pakistan


  • Nakhtar
    Feb 28, 2012 - 6:51AM

    Congrates Sharmeen, keep it up.
    You are the true vioce of PKISTAN.


  • Go Sharmeen
    Feb 28, 2012 - 7:42AM
  • Khalid Khan
    Feb 28, 2012 - 7:56AM

    Award is fine but this ‘Pakistani’ lady could have worn more modest clothing at the ceremony.


  • HS
    Feb 28, 2012 - 9:41AM

    @ Akhtar, If Sharmeen didnt make the documentary it wouldnt change the fact that women are abused in our country. If she won an oscar for it, it was for her aptly directing the documentary.Recommend

  • Feb 28, 2012 - 9:42AM

    I think it is a great honor for Pakistanis that Obaid-Chinoy won such a prestigious award. If you will not face your demons and talk about them, how will you address them? Contrary to the opinion of some commentators here, like Akhtar, all countries have skeletons in their closets. The only thing that brings shame to Pakistan is the misogyny and ignorance of its men. Listen to Khalid Khan here and his sexist comment about Obaid-Chinoy’s dress. How absurd. He is freaking out over her sleeveless dress while women are being burnt by acid violence in his country. THAT is shameful.


  • Feb 28, 2012 - 11:31AM

    This is what SOC has written in her director’s statement on the Oscar website. It is so well written:

    “As a woman who has never been subjected to gender discrimination in Pakistan, the awareness that such acts occur and are regarded as the norm in segments of Pakistani society deeply affects me. Yet I believe that stimulating thought about such a sensitive issue is the first step in the direction of alleviating it.”

    Learn from it!


  • asma
    Feb 28, 2012 - 11:31AM

    Those who criticize sharmeen for highlighting the problem and on her clothes…. you guys arehopeless and further prove the point that an average paki man is a true male withno respect and consideration for a woman.

    Kudos to Sharmen Obaid Chinnoy and the doctors who work day and night for something positive. am proud to be a pakistani woman!


  • Khalid Khan
    Feb 28, 2012 - 12:57PM

    Dresswise a good example would be Saeeda Warsi of UK..if u know what I mean, otherwise no problems..!!


  • asma
    Feb 28, 2012 - 3:17PM

    @Khalid Khan

    no i don’t know what u mean. show some respect to the women regardless what they wear and what they don’t. remember u came into this world coz of a woman!


  • Khalid Khan
    Feb 28, 2012 - 4:03PM

    @arshad khan:
    what is sexist in my comment, u would agree with me if u were not a fake Khan, she looks disgraceful in that dress.Recommend

  • George
    Feb 28, 2012 - 5:13PM

    It was great disgust that I saw Sharmeen denude Pakistanis collective self respect at the altar of her cheap publicity and fame. Isn’t it ironic that her documentary is called “Saving Face”…yet it defaces Pakistan’s international image. And what is even more sorrowful is the fact that we Pakistanis our actually celebrating our international disgrace. What is Sharmeen trying to tell the international community in this movie, she is conveying a message that women in Pakistan are treated worst than animals. Well according to her interview to the Toronto Star, about 150 yes sirs one hundred and fifty women suffer this sorry fate every year. I am in no way saying that is okay. It is a horendous and barbarous thing to do yet 150 is only .0000001 percent of the 180 million people living in this country. Is it fair to make this our “BRAND IMAGE” or is this the greatest evil we face???


  • Khalid Khan
    Feb 28, 2012 - 5:18PM

    You are right I came to this world because of women but my mother was not just any other women, she was a Yousafzai Pathan women who prayed five times a day and kept her head covered at all times and knew the difference between grace and disgrace.


  • Saadia
    Feb 28, 2012 - 6:03PM

    @George lets face it, not all women in Pakistan are happy as you think. I know the pain of woman as once I was a victim and my ex did beat me and threaten me that if I go to police station then he will either throw acid on my face or do a false claim of Zina. On the other hand, thank to Pakistani court which listened to my Khula case and I got rid of that evil in 6 months. But you know he signed papers on my back with this condition to claim that he is giving me divorce as I was not a good wife. When I complained to my lawyer once I saw that Khula deed (with full of lies he claimed) my lawyer replied that I should be happy that finally I got Khula otherwise its men world and for women to get any complete justice is not that easy. Anyway life is not bed of roses, at least not for South Asian woman. Thanks to Sharmeen that she made that documentary as this will help many women in Pakistan. Pakistan needs strict laws against women abuse and torture and George self-denial is not good, this is typical of Pakistanis and at end it wont help us to become civilized nation.


  • Anon
    Feb 28, 2012 - 6:49PM

    @George: “What is Sharmeen trying to tell the international community in this movie, she is conveying a message that women in Pakistan are treated worst than animals.” That is absolutely false. The story follows a Pakistani-British doctor who works to rehabilitate the lives of these women and how the combined efforts of all those involved in the story led to the parliaments decision to pass a bill on acid violence. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eDYpIvLL02w – Watch and learn something. What she is doing is greatly admirable and should be a matter of great pride for all Pakistanis.


  • s shah
    Feb 28, 2012 - 8:26PM

    @ Khalid Khan: All women, all human beings, deserve respect regardless of what they wear or believe. What they wear or believe is between them and their Creator (SWT) and we should not judge them. Kudos to Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy for bringing the atrocity of acid crime to the forefront. We cannot fix a problem if we do not acknowledge it.


  • Feb 28, 2012 - 8:32PM

    @Khalid Khan:
    What is fake is your sense of dignity and honour. You need to point a finger at the men in your community that bring shame to your country and your people every day. You need to understand your sexism and the violence in your daily life and you need to realize how it damages and harms women. You also need to examine your pride and remember that ‘pride comes before a fall’. And you need to dignify women by letting them decide for themselves what they want to wear and how they want to be without threat of violence. Your honour does not lie in your sexist rants. It is not Khan-like to be a sexist. Words of love and healing are what make a man a ‘real’ khan. And this country and this community needs a lot of healing. That is for sure. Recommend

  • Zara Mazhar
    Feb 29, 2012 - 3:07AM

    I beg your pardon? All these cheap men on here shouldn’t be commenting on here should go and look at their own damn records. You are nobody to comment on my or any other female’s body or clothes.
    Disgusting is the only word I can think of. It is enough that your wives, daughters and mothers are enslaved by your mentaliy, no need to impose it on those who have nothing to do with you.
    Is this what you think of women? That how much cloth they have on their face and head depends on how much you’ll respect them? Well, I’ll make this easy for you – we don’t give a damn. Don’t need your respect. Sharmeen Obaid – you are loved. Jinnah would be proud of you. He really would be.


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