How to win an Oscar

Published: March 1, 2012
The writer is a journalist based in Islamabad who also does risk-analysis work. He has worked at The Express Tribune and Newsline

The writer is a journalist based in Islamabad who also does risk-analysis work. He has worked at The Express Tribune and Newsline

When I was a kid, I loved the proudly racist British TV show “Mind Your Language”, and not only because stereotype-based humour is so uproarious to a six-year-old. What truly made it an instant classic was that it featured a Pakistani, who always wore a Jinnah cap and mined canned laughter by mispronouncing English words. Back then, any mention of Pakistan anywhere in the West was a cause of celebration, no matter how humiliating the reference may be. The snake charmers and yogis of yesteryear have been replaced by computer nerds and gas station attendants, but that’s Hollywood for you: always reducing foreign-looking people to the most reductive character possible. The real problem comes when Pakistanis buy into the same game, actively striving to gain Western recognition or, for those who follow a more mercenary mantra, Western money.

It is not surprising, then, that Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is the first Pakistani film-maker to receive the kind of international attention an Oscar win guarantees. Her documentaries all perform the kabuki dance that brings forth international funding, distribution and publicity. From the repression of Afghan women to the radicalisation caused by the Taliban right up to Saving Face, which ties in well with Western efforts to highlight the oppression of women in Pakistan, Sharmeen’s documentaries fuel the narrative that has been set by the West for Pakistan. Unless you believe that the US government funds work only out of a pure love of culture, the fact that she has received hundreds of thousands of dollars in funding from the US (although not for Saving Face) only shows how useful they consider these kinds of documentaries.

But this is not meant to be a personal attack on Sharmeen. The topics she chooses to concentrate on are all worthy of attention and have not been dreamed up by the West to justify military aggression. It is the consequences of the power enjoyed by western money and approval that needs to be critiqued.

The western influence means that only certain types of injustices will receive the international attention that has been bestowed on Children of the Taliban and Saving Face. Produce anything on militancy and at the very worst, you will get a pat on the back. Try and produce a documentary on, say, the victims of drone attacks or labour abuses and make sure you stock up on battery-powered torches and imperishable food items as you wait in the dark for NGO cheques and gold statuettes.

The pernicious influence of the West on Pakistan extends far beyond cinema. Anyone who has worked at a local NGO, after Pakistan suddenly became relevant again, will tell you how the gold spigots were turned on — but only if funding proposals hit all the right notes. Keywords like ‘Taliban’, ‘deradicalisation’ and ‘women’s empowerment’ have a Pavlovian effect on the likes of USAID. Once again, this is not meant to imply that such causes aren’t worthy of funding; simply that they crowd out other issues that should be as much of a priority for Pakistan, even if they are of no use to Western donors.

We also seem to have decided that our image, as projected in the West, is one of the most pressing matters currently facing the country. That we are in the news for an Oscar win is a matter for rejoicing, partly because now we’ll get a momentary break from stories about the latest outbreak of violence. And such feel-good stories will also ensure further foreign funding, more bouts of self-congratulation and more awards. Thus the vicious cycle remains unbroken.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 2nd, 2012.

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Reader Comments (103)

  • Maria
    Mar 1, 2012 - 10:15PM

    Absolute genius Nadir!
    You have the rare ability to articulate what all of us are thinking.


  • JS
    Mar 1, 2012 - 10:25PM

    While I see the point you’re making and I agree that it is a valid one, I must say that Saving Face is not highlighting ONLY what is wrong with Pakistan. It is also showing that while this problems persists in Pakistan, there are people who are trying and succeeding in mitigating it. The story of Saving Face is not only of acid-violence victims but also of a doctor who is giving back to Pakistan, of lawyers and policy makers actively looking for solutions to the problem and eventually the bill against acid-violence being passed.

    So yes, while the US maybe providing funding for such things and reinforcing a particular image of Pakistan (Orientalism and what not), Saving Face also highlights the fact that we can bring about change as a society if we choose to.


  • Mar 1, 2012 - 10:30PM

    I don’t understand how have you sewed western funding and winning an Oscar together. The NGO’s may fund whatever subject they like but an Oscar is not given by a country or a donor; an Oscar winner is chosen on the basis of his/her talent by a diverse group of critiques/academy members. We are all lauding Sharmeen and Denial for mastering a skill and winning a competition, more so the biggest and the most prestigious award of the industry.


  • Mj
    Mar 1, 2012 - 10:32PM

    Your argument is an indication of conspiratorial mindset. The gist of your article is that Saving Face only won because it is critical of Pakistan, and is an effort of the ‘west’ to defame the glorious country. Let me bring to your notice an American documentary Taxi to the Dark Side, which won the Oscar award in 2008, which is highly critical of the American belligerence and highhandedness. If you think the victims of drone attacks need exposure, then go out to Miranshah and Waziristan and make a documentary . If you are successful, you’ll get plenty of support from European and American bleeding-hearts. Recommend

  • John B
    Mar 1, 2012 - 10:39PM

    When a dog bites a man it is no news. But when a man bites a dog it is news

    Same goes for film making and funding. A boy and a girl falling in love is not a story, without a villain. Survival amongst all odds is a story. Civilian drone victims, survival of Afghan refugee, Asia Bibi, forceful kidnapping for marriage, survival after devastating flood or earth quack-in short the underdog is a story.

    The real heroes of the Oscar are the Pakistani plastic surgeon, and the victims. Hope the Pakistan government recognizes their efforts when they host the reception for the film maker.


  • Ali Wazir
    Mar 1, 2012 - 10:46PM

    For anyone who thinks Nadir is wrong. Just answer this simple question. Have you heard of the critically acclaimed yet not reported documentary “The Invisible War”?(It came out this year) Telling isnt it…

    Taxi Drive to the Dark Side only got picked up because Bush was almost universally loathed by then. And the Gist was again that only Rumsfield forced the poor angelic marines into becoming monsters thanks to the stress and all that jazz.

    Easy to kick someone when he is down.

    Its Kinda like why “Inside Job” (which was critical of the Banking industry) won last year.


  • Mariam
    Mar 1, 2012 - 11:00PM

    Nadir – How this documentary leads to greater funding, I have no idea, but I would like to know exactly what your point is? Do we as concerned Pakistani citizens raise awareness or not? And what if the only people who care enough to fund these films somehow happens to be HBO, or Channel 4 or the New York Times. I pray that Dr Jawad is innundated with the money to keep moving forward with salvaging the lives of these poor women, and that as a nation this provides us the impetus to prevent violence against women. As for Sharmeen – I applaud her for never making it about her – certainly her speech was never about her or thanking her family or promoting herself – it was for the voiceless. May we all have the strength to speak out for them.


  • Smoking Gun
    Mar 1, 2012 - 11:13PM

    you miss out that you need to have connections in Hollywood our that the oscar winner went to Stanford so obviously networking is better! … You skipped critical data in your analysis mate.Recommend

  • Talha
    Mar 1, 2012 - 11:14PM


    The stupidity of the Pakistani blogosphere seems to have no bounds, celebrating like mad for what was actually a slap in the face. Let Sharmeen make a docu about the vastly greater number of rape victims in America, or about Abu Ghraib, or about the civilians lost to American and other imperialist wars, and see how much acclaim she gets.

    Indeed issues like violence against women are a sad part of our society and need to be addressed, but this Oscar was no “positive” news as many seem to think. It merely added to the demonisation of Pakistan.

    Kudos to the writer for spelling it out.


  • Amjad
    Mar 1, 2012 - 11:15PM

    A friend of mine recently posted it, i can not agree more to what he said. Nadir should also read it.
    DEAR CRITICS OF SHARMEEN CHENNAI I have been reading condemnations of Sharmeen, because she made a film on acid stricken women and not on a topic of your choice………..How absurd (with apologies).She has produced a piece of art on a subject which is noble (may be less noble than something sacred in your minds) but it is noble nonetheless, and which touched her heart. Yes there can be a zillion more topics that deserve a focus. So why you guys dont come forward and do better work it. She has shown you a candle. Do something better. May be you do not get an Oscar, (due to anti Muslim bias) but you will do your duty. It is your duty if you think it important. Do not expect someone else to do you duty while you relax in your arm chairs to frown at the good work of’someone else. It appears to me that the people who are so touched by other topics are not creative enough and can only envy her. Come on have a big heart. Remember she has brought up the sufferings of Muslim women in a Muslim country. Please see what you Muslims are doing to your Muslim sister women and dont even like that your criminal silence is brought to light. be good Muslims at least.Recommend

  • antanu g
    Mar 1, 2012 - 11:17PM

    right on spot. do any thing which highlights the negative side of a society in the east and west is ready to hug you.


  • Mar 1, 2012 - 11:23PM

    “We also seem to have decided that our image, as projected in the West, is one of the most pressing matters currently facing the country. That we are in the news for an Oscar win is a matter for rejoicing…”



  • Mohtashim
    Mar 1, 2012 - 11:32PM

    We are proud of the documentary, her success.. I suggest you watch her speech at the award ceremony, youd know why Pakistanis are celebrating and why wouldnt they? The cause they were working on is at the highest landmark they’d want to acheive, The world heard them! And the subject it was on, Nadir there are so many issues that are unaddresed here in Pakistan, be happy and appreciate that atleast one of the issues got a voice! And please every country in this world has problems, one just needs a platform to tell the unattended truth to people and thats exactly what she did.


  • RJ
    Mar 1, 2012 - 11:33PM

    Now that the winning formula for an oscar has been discovered, let’s see all the nay-sayers produce oscar worthy films…waits with baited breath


  • Abrar R
    Mar 1, 2012 - 11:36PM

    Couldnt agree more,

    Theres np Sharmeen made this documentary, the problem is it has been exploited to good effect.

    negative Pakistan sells .. A Pakistani was glorified at oscars, not Pakistan.


  • White Russian
    Mar 1, 2012 - 11:37PM

    I never suspected that an Oscar to a Pak woman could spawn such profound Hegelian system of thought articulated in this article. uncover other pieces of this grand conspiracy called Academy of Motion Picture Science and Arts. Started in 1929, it says something about the lousiness of Oscars conspirators. Otherwise how could one explain the fact that they barely managed to attain their evil objective in year 2012. And look at our stupidity: instead of taking film The Artist as another thread of same evil design, now we are dying to believe in its technical or aesthetic value.Recommend

  • SY
    Mar 1, 2012 - 11:41PM

    It is unfortunate that other issues do not get as much attention. Perhaps they need to be marketed better, or more people need to write about them and take action for them, instead of coming up with reasons why they do not get enough attention and conspiracy theories for why others have.

    The reason why issues such as “repression of Afghan women to the radicalization caused by the Taliban” have been picked up and exploded are because people are writing, talking about them. This film maker has picked a few issues and gotten them attention- others need to stand up and do the same for rest that they believe in.


  • IA Agha
    Mar 1, 2012 - 11:53PM

    Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and her fans likewise are people who believe in the authority White mans certificate. The white mans approval that proves that they are great, they have done wonders, they have done the right thing and they are the best.

    But what about the Pakistani certificate, is there a Pakistani who cares more about what Pakistanis think of them instead of what the west thinks of them? To how many of us does the Pakistani approval matter more than the west’s approval?

    We Pakistanis need to get some self-respect instead of degrading ourselves in front of the west just to earn medals of approval from them. We know Militancy is wrong but so are the drones.


  • Saira
    Mar 2, 2012 - 12:07AM

    @IA Agha:
    A large number of Sharmeens “fans”, are people who do not have internet access or even know what this blog is. They are the women who have been ignored and shunned and do not care for the white mans approval. The sad truth is that no one in Pakistan who publicize such an issue for fear of making Pakistan look bad, at the cost of not improving these women’s lives.


  • Umer
    Mar 2, 2012 - 12:07AM

    I wish Mumtaz Qadri gets the next Oscar so people like Nadir and other critics of Sharmeen can rest and declare Oscars to be a worthy cause.


  • XX
    Mar 2, 2012 - 12:12AM

    Bravo – be proud of this article; know we thing you’ve done a good thing here. You won’t get any money or recognition from Western donors for it, but you will reap an infinitely larger benefit in the shape of a better conscience. Keep it up.


  • Saira
    Mar 2, 2012 - 12:21AM

    Its great that you see all these other subjects that documentaries should be made about, and unfortunate that instead of doing anything about, you are applauding conspiracy theories about an individual who is doing something about one of the issues that our nation is facing.

    Its also unfortunate that instead of focusing on the issue that was highlighted through the documentary – Pakistanis have decided to target it as a sellout to the west and as you call it- “a demonisation of Pakistan”.

    There will never be positive change in this country if its own countrymen stand in its way.


  • Hassam
    Mar 2, 2012 - 1:26AM

    @Talha: How did it add to the demolition of Pakistan? Accepting a part of a society is not disgrace. The documentary shows a issue and shows that there are people willing to help and solve it. It shows a part of Pakistan that is fighting against it. And most importantly it shows the talent of Pakistan. You are forgetting that the criteria for Oscar is not only the topic, but the way it is shot, written and presented.


  • Sajid
    Mar 2, 2012 - 1:32AM

    Sharmeen chose to show the plight of acid attack victims instead of drone attack victims and you are “critical”. My Friend, you chose to take out your time to write a piece belittling her achievement (even if you didn’t mean, that is the effect) instead of writing something in solidarity with Gilgiti victims of the victims of drone attacks!! #Kohistan ambush! very disappointing Nadir! didn’t expect you would fall like this!


  • aq.inqalabi
    Mar 2, 2012 - 1:34AM

    this is the best example that pakistanies can not see each other progressing! simple as that, these kinds of pathetic pseudo intellectuals highlights the vary depressing, selfish and negative mindset …..Recommend

  • Fahad
    Mar 2, 2012 - 1:44AM

    This article is absolutely disgusting, I continue to be shocked at just how much the Pakistani Nation hates itself and is unable to celebrate its own people!
    Sharmeens a Pakistani woman who has managed to win an oscar, and shes managed to shed light upon a huge issue, these are all positive things. Yet a negative reaction is to be expected, since we’ve forgotten how to celebrate our own people’s achievements.
    What further shocks me is the fact that people have the audacity to write articles regarding a film they have not seen. Except a few most in Pakistan have not seen the movie yet, could you at least wait for it to be screened or aired and then make up your mind about it. The film shows acid burn victims, a relevant issue, that is what documentary film makers do, they talk about the realities of life. The film also seems to focus on a doctors work helping the victims, how that is doing anything but highlighting a positive aspect is beyond me!
    Your reductionist article mentions Children of Taliban, to support statements regarding key words like ‘taliban,’ yet you fail to mention her work like her documentary about the Transgendered community. I trust you can come up with conspiracy theories regarding how thats all America’s propaganda too.
    Sharmeen’s an inspiration to many, she was one before the oscar while she did work like the Shankht festival and all her brilliat work at the Citizens Archieve of Pakistan, and shes an inspiration to many more around the world thanks to her new found ‘western recognition.’


  • Chacha Gama
    Mar 2, 2012 - 1:46AM

    A fact is a fact, face it. Regretfully you are talking medieval machoism. You are a young and aspiring journalist who work for a well respected newspaper.
    Look at the glass half full and let us not blame others for our our misdeeds.


  • Aman
    Mar 2, 2012 - 1:55AM

    Strange that an article that is not supposed to be a “personal attack on Sharmeen”, mentions both of her works “Children of the Taliban” and “Saving Face”.

    Why don’t you please shed light on all other types of injustices by whatever means you have rather than attacking someone who has the courage (of being a woman) in Pakistan to highlight at least some of the injustices she has chosen.

    Her works have there for a while now. Why it did not occur it to you then? Why just after Osacars? Did you see the competition she had in that particular category? Same creepy arguments could be made for some of them too.
    Now, for the sake of argument, if we pick up topics which the author will not object, that will exclude topics that point out human rights issues concerning women and all other minorities by implication, any criticism of Pakistani Army (that will exclude most of the country’s history). I am not sure what are we left with. I suppose we could always come up with the issue of how the country’s feudal class is the real economic and political victims in Pakistan?


  • Optimist
    Mar 2, 2012 - 2:06AM

    Why we cannot accept that Pakistanis are worthy of winning an Oscar?
    What would you say about Irani film that won Oscar??


  • Ali
    Mar 2, 2012 - 2:07AM

    Just about what I thought when I first read the news of an Oscar win.


  • Danish Khan
    Mar 2, 2012 - 2:27AM

    true nadir totally agree, few more keywords that gets floods of funding; Pak Army, Empowering Youth (read Westernization), Pakistan and SEX or or anything in between these.


  • Usman
    Mar 2, 2012 - 2:28AM

    so basically even if we have problems in our country we should not say anything about them so that it would bring a bad name to our country.

    I think its about time we should grow up, accept the problems we have and try to fix them instead of always crying about foul play.


  • Mar 2, 2012 - 2:30AM

    Thinking in terms of conspiracy theories is familiar waters for Pakis. Where you go, the whole world is against you. The crusades are on.

    One of the very popular US TV series has been “The Wire”. It talks of drugs, murder, mayhem, open racism, corruption in police, corruption in city administration, corruption in the church, smuggling, prostitution, human trafficking you name it. No one, as far as I know has protested against the film makers taking up such topics. Just a bundle of negative PR, at least according to ultra nationalist of Pak. Prisoners of Oz, The Sopranos etc the list is long. These series are exported as well. How shameless these Americans are? They don’t hide it! They could at least ban the export!

    The Killings, a spy series from Denmark, is very popular in US and in GB, it shows corruption and moral decay in the mayor’s office or the ministries using genuine places as locations.

    Many of the words spoken or scenes in such productions would be unimaginable to be shown in Pak. Channel 4 has produced hundreds if not thousands of documentaries, covering problems that their society faces today. Do you mean that ordinary folk, columnists or intellectuals do not support such topics to be brought to light?

    Beyghairat extremist liberals.


  • You Said It
    Mar 2, 2012 - 2:53AM

    Angry Young Man, no one stops you or other Pakistanis from making documentaries you wish to make about drone strikes or labour abuses. Nothing prevents us from honouring makers of such documentaries. Have we done either? No. So if the world doesn’t heed our message or care for issues dear to us, it’s not the world’s fault because the world doesn’t prevent us from pursuing that which we consider important.

    Some may deny it, but there is no market in Pakistan for such insightful or investigative documentaries. How many media houses in Pakistan would fund documentaries like Savinng Faces the way NYT TV and HBO have done? You speak of stocking up on torches or imperishable food items waiting for western recognition – let’s be clear, if a documentary maker relied on Pakistani recognition, they would be destitute.

    So it’s not that Pakistanis have decided that our image in the West is the most pressing matter. We rejoice because Sharmeed Obain-Chinoy proves that if and when we succeed in quelling the demons our society is battling today, Pakistanis too will be free to pursue the dream of scaling the heights of human achievement.


  • T Khan
    Mar 2, 2012 - 3:04AM

    I started the article to see what your point of view is but lost interest and had a real bad feeling in my gut in less than 15 seconds.
    To me this is our problem of always looking to put the blame of everything on others. West, western money, western image…who cares??? actually we do. We (including the author) are obsessed about who they look at us.
    Clean up our act is what our focus should be, this attitude that even if fish fight in the Indian Ocean it must be the gora and thus giving others this supreme power our us is absolutely wrong.
    Deal with things for what they are worth…not where the west is hiding behind it, it sounds rediculous


  • sana
    Mar 2, 2012 - 3:09AM

    sharmeen is also the one who ran that campaign to get edhi the nobel prize, right?


  • YeaRight!
    Mar 2, 2012 - 3:09AM

    Financial transparency is the cornerstone of responsible social work. Noble intentions and goals do not justify Ignoble means. Just like taking donations from the Taliban to distribute candy and books to orphans will still be considered polluted and not okay. So is taking money from the State Dept (diplomatic and propaganda wing of the US government) to do ‘social work’ in the name of Pakistanis is NOT OKAY!
    Such funding would have been unacceptable in ANY part of the world. Also if this funding is not a big deal then why is it being brushed under the carpet and not been admitted in public by the film maker?? That is just dishonest man.


  • maheen usmani
    Mar 2, 2012 - 3:20AM

    what sour grapes!Recommend

  • General Ziaulhaq
    Mar 2, 2012 - 3:33AM

    This Oscar is a huge setback to the noble cause of acid throwing. Congratulations to ET for unearthing a vile conspiracy. And damned be the cynics who are smelling envy.


  • gp65
    Mar 2, 2012 - 3:36AM

    “Once again, this is not meant to imply that such causes aren’t worthy of funding; simply that they crowd out other issues that should be as much of a priority for Pakistan, even if they are of no use to Western donors.”

    If other causes are worthy, why do Pakistanis not fund them? After all Imran Khan and many others claim that Pakistanis are the most generous nation on earth


  • ahmed
    Mar 2, 2012 - 3:47AM

    Wow. We as Pakistani’s are so proud that we wont accept that what was done is good for so many ‘voiceless’ women. She made a documentary about victims and a hero the Dr who moved to Pakistan to help these women. And all that people have to say is this was a slap in the face and what she did is not right. Most definitively it is a slap in the face, only because we stand by and do nothing while innocent people and most importantly women get attacked, raped murdered and then our society shuns them like they are the ones who are in the wrong. Pakistan has a lot wrong with it. And if one person does some thing to try to improve one aspect we all jump up to pull that person down. no wonder Pakistan is a failed state.


  • Mirza
    Mar 2, 2012 - 3:53AM

    Sour grapes! Before insulting the sterotype of colored people in the US, the writer should know that “we” are ruling this country. Our president and attorney general look like us not blue eyed blonds. In addition, there are tens of thousands of Pakistani and Indian doctors that are proudly making an honest living and keeping a high profile. Mansoor Ijaz the darling of rightwing Paksitanis is one such example.
    Leave it to some negative and narrow thinking to change an award into a conspiracy. It only shows a very narrow outlook in the media age.


  • Anon
    Mar 2, 2012 - 4:23AM

    Those who think such funding is no big deal should read this article which is by a reputable US magazine :


  • faiza
    Mar 2, 2012 - 4:57AM

    why this article was removed for some time?


  • Cynical
    Mar 2, 2012 - 5:06AM

    Sorry. You can do better than this.
    It smacks of a conspiracy mind set (may be not intended).
    I don’t think the Oscar jury really looks at the colour of money before the quality of the product in hand.


  • Deb
    Mar 2, 2012 - 5:15AM

    Who has stopped you from making a documentary on Abu Ghraib,rapes in US (assuming it happens in US only) or victims of blashphemy law, forcible conversion,abduction of girls from minority community etc. etc.
    Give it a try and then rant if you fail to win an oscar.


  • Armita
    Mar 2, 2012 - 6:17AM

    Dear critics of Saving Face,

    In my opinion, Saving Face has shown the positives of Pakistan through the doctors and Sharmeen; how they are trying to rebuild Pakistan, how it is not full of savages and terrorists but kind-hearted people.

    Why should Sharmeen make documentaries about countries and its problems when she can highlight the problems we have here and help fix them? I think even if she DID make a documentary about another country’s issues, then you all would go on about how she neglected her country.

    I request all of you to to get up from your comfortable seats behind your computers, and make a documentary of the “positive things” you have been all harping about. Then we shall talk.

    Good day.


  • Singh
    Mar 2, 2012 - 6:29AM

    Nadir Hassan,
    Why don’t you make documentary on great Mumtaz Qadri’s act & glorify it. I assure you, you will get $$$ and tons of rose petal on Oscar night in Hollywood. People like them must be acclaimed in movie world so Pakistan name can be glorified in whole world.
    Please stop drinking cool aid of conspiracy. Do yourself some good rather than writing worthless blog in your comfort zone just like me.


  • Always Learning
    Mar 2, 2012 - 8:52AM

    A sad column written and appreciated by people who do not wish to face the truth. Worse still, a cheap shot. Please do not trivialize such high achievement. It is not easy to win the Oscar. Regardless of the topic, there should be sensitive and artistic treatment of the subject and cinematic value. You have the right to disagree with selection of the subject matter (though how can anyone do so defies belief), but at least give credit to the efforts of the producers, directors and the crew. And even if you are convinced of your disagreement, can’t you let it pass for a moment and let those who celebrate celebrate?


  • Humanity
    Mar 2, 2012 - 9:16AM

    ENOUGH! We’ve got such great patriots here. How will we be able to wipe-out liberal scum and Indian, American, British, Ahmadi agents, Shezan drinkers and Non-Islamic-Muslims if we continue fighting among ourselves over a small award?


  • omer
    Mar 2, 2012 - 9:30AM

    Great article! was fed up of reading Hoodbhoy’s article….but really appreciate the effort Mr. Nadir made.


  • Shimaila
    Mar 2, 2012 - 9:31AM

    Well written Nadir. The points you raise are very valid. I really do wish that Pakistanis learn to respect and admire the women on the ground, who are working very hard to improve the lives of ordinary Pakistanis, and accord them with the same, if not more respect, than soc. Recognition is great, but intentions and results are what count more.


  • Ali
    Mar 2, 2012 - 9:49AM

    Guys, it is not a debate on whether we should expose the problems of our country or not. Do you expect the USA to come and fix your problems? Has it done it ever before? with any country? You have to solve your own problems. The issue discussed in this article is of going to the west, with a movie that serves more of the west’s purpose than yours, and then winning an Oscar. By awarding this Oscar the west has highlighted the issue even more prominently and guess what one of our own helped them achieve this. Happy Oscar to her and to many more who like to expose themselves to the enemies to gather appreciation.


  • An EHM
    Mar 2, 2012 - 10:14AM

    It is good that the west recognized this woman’s effort of few years (for whatever reason). I am waiting how long will it take them to acknowledge Edhi’s efforts of decades with Nobel Prize.


  • Amar
    Mar 2, 2012 - 10:29AM

    Seems like the writer knows exactly what it takes to fail in the field of journalism.

    Sharmeen has done something which we can only imagine and dream of accomplishing. There will be many others who will be inspired, and then there will be people like this talentless writer who can only rant.


  • Zohair
    Mar 2, 2012 - 10:34AM

    If we are true to ourselves and the cause we are following then it should not matter what our”image” is in the “west”. why do we always have to measure ourselves against their standards? there are thousands of topics and sharmeen chinoy picked on of them and presented it. if she had picked some other topic then the same criticism would have followed….rather than writing against her oscar it would be beneficial to write about the issues and their resolution.


  • SM
    Mar 2, 2012 - 10:38AM

    Well said, Nadir. Absolutely spot on. And kudos for writing this even though people won’t actually read beyond what they perceive is a critique of SOC.


  • Zoon
    Mar 2, 2012 - 10:49AM

    @Hamza Qaiser:
    your comment regarding “an Oscar has nothing to do with this” goes on to show how little you know. I’m sorry for coming on too strong, but do you honestly think any documentary/ film openly condemning Capitalism, showing the suffering of the ‘99%’ in Occupy Wall Street Protests, Vietnam wars, American atrocities in Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Drone Attacks in Pakistan would have won an Oscar? If so then give me an example of anti-imperialist awareness being appreciated or acknowledged by this critical/ neutral panel that you seem to have so much faith in. I would love to be enlightened.


  • TMohsin
    Mar 2, 2012 - 11:02AM

    An excellent analysis..I am fed up of everyone going crazy over the oscar win…i bet if she makes a documentary on the positive aspects of Pakistan, noone will even know that such a documentary even exists.


  • kashi
    Mar 2, 2012 - 11:05AM

    nadir you are telling the truth but no will support you in ur arguments u made in your article


  • Saba Khalid
    Mar 2, 2012 - 11:45AM

    Finally some sense!


  • Neha Khan
    Mar 2, 2012 - 11:55AM

    Dear Mr. Nadir Hussain, it seems you are spending too much time in the company of Mr. Ikram Sehgal ;)


  • The Dude
    Mar 2, 2012 - 12:06PM

    Mr. Treehorn treats objects like women, man…


  • Mar 2, 2012 - 12:27PM

    So on what topics should she make documentaries on? Any suggestions for that or only whining?!


  • Lahorie
    Mar 2, 2012 - 1:14PM

    @Raheel Lakhani: How about topics of

    “Innocent Women and children killed in Drone attacks”
    “The killing of family heads by militants effecting women”
    “Personal efforts of women to increase female education level”
    “The arts and crafts created by women”
    “Lack of facilities for education of Pakistani women”

    I hope you got my point


  • Sania
    Mar 2, 2012 - 1:49PM

    Nadir sahib why don’t you stick to writing those ’10 things I hate about’ pieces in Express Magazine. There you ‘risk assessment’ skills come in handy. This was really low blow.


  • daredevil
    Mar 2, 2012 - 2:29PM

    Nadir has taken a unpopular stance and got some validity in it but still let’s give Sharmeen credit for bringing forth a very painful subject to the fore, even if it was done with the help of “funding”, which I think is essential now matter what is your aim is.


  • Habib Sanai
    Mar 2, 2012 - 2:54PM

    Nadir sahib serves interests of powers that be in very subtle way.


  • Yuri Kondratyuk
    Mar 2, 2012 - 2:55PM

    Some of our cousins who were gloating over the thoroughly over the top and tasteless Slumdog millionaire as if it was a truthful documentary are now resenting a truthful documentary as if its an over the top movie!
    But, I must say Saving Face deserved an Oscar more than Slumdog millionaire.


  • Ehtisham Khan
    Mar 2, 2012 - 2:59PM

    Breaking News: There was an acid attack on the face of Pakistan and the Culprit has been given an award and the Doctor who could save Pakistan’s face was seen at the award ceremony wearing a black shirwani, cheering the culprit :)


  • DevilHunterX
    Mar 2, 2012 - 3:46PM

    Nadir Hassan, have you won any Oscar?


  • Murtaza Sheraz
    Mar 2, 2012 - 3:57PM

    the worst picture of Pakistan s presented, u know the west wants us to see in that way. slum dog was also won oskar coz it satisfies the racist west.
    burnt faces, daily blasts, extremism and terror.. is this all we have to show the world. and we hoping for economy to build? nobody dies of hunger and poverty in zero resources countries which develop tourism.. spain, thailand, turkey.. many more.


  • Umer
    Mar 2, 2012 - 4:50PM


    Why did you miss out Gojra attacks on Christians, Blasphemy laws and attacks and persecution of Ahmadis?


  • Umer
    Mar 2, 2012 - 5:04PM

    People who are complaining of dollars going to NGOs are those who were previous recipients of dollars under the umbrella of Jihad. If there were an Oscar or a Nobel Prize for extremism these right (wrong) wingers would be all for it. Problem is these days right wingers get slapped at every point; murders of Salman Taseer and Shehbaz Bhati, Asia Bibi case and persecution of just about everyone in Pakistan by these right wingers. They just can not get any credit these days for anything, as days of their American sponsored Jihad are long over. Dollars are no longer coming and there is even commendation for their extremist acts too; which extremist will be happy at that? It just kills them when there is no Oscar for their extremist efforts.


  • Pakiaway
    Mar 2, 2012 - 5:16PM

    Why NGO funding and western backing has anything to do with Sharmeens oscar win and her documentary is beyond me, but i think it is very important to highlight issues in our society, accept them and do somethign about them. We cant live with our heads buried in the sand refusing to face our problems. The fact is Pakistan has these issues and many more and we shouldnt hide from them we need to face them. The documentary has shows the better faces of our society too, the strenght these women have shown and the brave work done by our doctors. And @Talha dont criticise Sharmeen for making a documentary on a topic of her choice, why on earth should she make one on whats going in the US when she felt it was important to talk about whats going on in Pakistan. If you have problem why dont u attempt to do soemthing to highlight issues that YOU seem to be concerned anout. Lets just be happy with this extraordinary achievement that she dedicated to OUR country and to all the voiceless and helpless ppl of Pakistan. Congrats Sharmeen, your awesome!Recommend

  • Umar
    Mar 2, 2012 - 6:02PM

    I am disappointed that even the educated in Pakistan are incapable of the seeing the woods from the trees. We were always fond of denial and conspiracy theories, but the unfounded uproar on this documentary just takes the cake. Just because this cannot be denied any longer, thanks to the strong and increasingly omni-present media in Pakistan, Sharmeen is being criticised of attacking Pakistan’s ghairat.

    Have we ever wondered why the West treats us so badly, why there are drone attacks on us and no one in the West bothers about the civillian casualties. It is because, we as a nation, dont care about each other. We are more worried about Americans burning Qurans in another country than we are about burning and defacing our own sisters and daughters in our streets and mohallas. This has become “our way of life”. Even the ones who dont condone this savage practice do not stand up to condemn it or stop it. The world sees it and values us and our lives with the same price tag that we have put on ourselves. And that is why they go ahead with their controversial practices of drone strikes and covert (extra-judicial) assasinations.


  • izonKAYANI
    Mar 2, 2012 - 6:03PM

    So… she did a great job “no doubt” in her capacity, but it may very well be true that knowingly/unknowingly she was being played by others in their interest….


  • Saad Iqbal
    Mar 2, 2012 - 6:12PM

    Do these things not happen in Pakistan. If anything this success will only bring attention to this vice. Time up to own your societys dark side instead of shoving under the carpet. And you should see Michael Moores documentaries that have been nominated or won an Oscar. And what about the side of the documentary that shows the civilians role in healing this wound. Recommend

  • shaheen shah
    Mar 2, 2012 - 7:13PM

    @nadir: may i know the source from which report sharmeen for getting loads of money on her other doccumentries. Recommend

  • Sidra
    Mar 2, 2012 - 7:31PM

    Who cares about what the west thinks! If you ask me , we have a very bad habit of worrying too much about the west. What is more important is what we think about ourselves and our country. Shermeen had the courage to highlight an issue that many of us wont have. Even if thus documentory saves a couple of women from acid attacks , even then her efforts would all be worth it!


  • Mar 2, 2012 - 7:45PM

    Next time she will make a documentary on good things about Pakistan if we identify one.


  • TB
    Mar 2, 2012 - 8:06PM

    Simply…Stereotype Approach…


  • Nice Guy
    Mar 2, 2012 - 8:16PM

    Spot on Nadir, congrats to Sharmeen but your analysis is spot on!


  • Frankly...
    Mar 2, 2012 - 8:21PM

    In nutshell:
    Besides the fact that we need to take serious steps about women rights; Topic Selection of Sharmees’s movies has been based JUST on pleasing the west!!!


  • Rabia
    Mar 2, 2012 - 8:30PM

    I really don’t understand the argument that the author is making here. The film that she won the Oscar for was not about militancy. It was about throwing acid on women’s faces which, by any standards, is something worth making a film about if only the promote donations for the rehabilitation of the victims.

    “Keywords like ‘Taliban’, ‘deradicalisation’ and ‘women’s empowerment’ have a Pavlovian effect on the likes of USAID”

    So what? Certain issues do have a somewhat universal appeal to human sympathy. The author makes it sound like these are fringe issues that are just being highlighted for nefarious purposes by the West and its colonized toadies.


  • Scientist
    Mar 2, 2012 - 9:12PM

    Absolutely spot on. We are a society full of obsessed liberals. Take the religion out, can’t we see what is irrelevant to the West becomes universally irrelevant? Those who praise such documentaries and get wooo’d with getting the Oscar are so mentally obsessed & handicapped that the only thing that strikes them is the flavor of the flash. We are just a bunch of educated illiterates.


  • Soup
    Mar 2, 2012 - 9:20PM

    @Abid P. Khan:

    Conspiracy theories? Seriously?

    Evidently more people die in Pakistan because of drone strikes & lack of disaster management as we witnessed in floods & earthquakes than the pouring of acid on women’s faces (which is by all means a sheer crime in Islam & Pakistani Constitution and is against all the norms & values of our society)

    But still, are you so naive to see how come just one minor & negative aspect of our society gets all of a sudden such importance from the West and other, more grieve, issues which can be resolved by direct intervention & action by the West (and at some point are directly created by the West) get ignored?

    What a shame…


  • Zalim Singh
    Mar 2, 2012 - 9:48PM

    hopeless article.


  • Mar 2, 2012 - 10:42PM

    100% correct analysis


  • Thinker,not Believer
    Mar 3, 2012 - 2:05AM


    “Keywords like ‘Taliban’, ‘deradicalisation’ and ‘women’s empowerment’ have a Pavlovian effect on the likes of USAID. Once again, this is not meant to imply that such causes aren’t worthy of funding; simply that they crowd out other issues that should be as much of a priority for Pakistan, even if they are of no use to Western donors.”

    —–You Stole My Thoughts… Gr8 Piece


  • mind control
    Mar 3, 2012 - 10:30AM

    Nadir Hassan

    The western influence means that only certain types of injustices will receive the international attention


    If that be the case, Care to enlighten us on the source of funding and reasons behind critical acclaim and success of a film called ‘Frenheit 911’?


  • observer
    Mar 3, 2012 - 10:48AM

    Western Conspiracy!

    What a beautiful pile of sand!

    Here I come, to bury my head.Recommend

  • Abhi
    Mar 3, 2012 - 12:36PM

    You have put up your arguments very well, when I started to read this blog I thought it is again one of the conspiracy theory, but at the end I found myself agreeing on all the points you have made. Oscars are not given purely on merit basis and they have western bias, this is not to say that Saving face was a good documentary. But giving too much importance to oscar award is misplaced.


  • yaz
    Mar 3, 2012 - 2:47PM

    With all the negativity coming out of our country, we didn’t need Saving Face. This is not to say bad things are not happening around us for which we ourselves are to blame. It is just that we don’t need to wash our dirty linen in public. Inspite of the darkness around us there certainly are positive stories that can be told to the world. This is an age of advertisement. Bad product can be packaged good. India inspite of its social ills, always is INCREDIBLE INDIA, while it has serious social issues. I hope in Shermeen’s next project Pakistan is shown in a positive way.


  • observer
    Mar 3, 2012 - 3:50PM

    We have had some very well documented TV programs on PTV as far back as 2002-2003 on Karo-Kari. There have even been TV dramas too on the same issue. Were these also inspired by ‘Western influences’? And if so. Was PTV also a part of the conspiracy.?


  • obl
    Mar 4, 2012 - 8:43AM

    hahahaha victims of drone attacks?


  • ZYX
    Mar 4, 2012 - 10:21AM

    Kudos for telling it like it is. Couldn’t agree with you more. Funding from abroad and themes/subjects that are used by the US to create a negative picture of Pakistan. All of this will only become more obvious with time…lets see what the next subject is..,maybe ‘The ISI’s role in creating world wide terror’, or ‘the danger of an Islamic bomb’….LOL….just watch…its coming, I’m sure of it.


  • Mar 4, 2012 - 4:40PM

    Phrased and articulated perfectly! The raised questions were already on minds of many Pakistanis and the backlash is understandable, after all, West’s validation is so dear and treasured in some circles that it is given precedence over integrity.


  • Talia
    Mar 4, 2012 - 8:40PM

    I completely agree wth everything in this article— well done. Pakistan is definitely a victim of stereotyping, and worse, now we’re being bribed with oscars to maintain a certain image of ourselves as victims and oppressors. It’s hardly a newsbreaking story, and the angle Chinoy took on it is simpleminded and superficial, no oscar material- yet- we have been awarded an oscar. We should all wonder why. If a pakistani film maker had made / worked on something that didnt show the sad face of pakistan, and was perhaps truly artistic or entertaining, and even good, which competed with other americans in the same category– i wonder if we would be given an oscar. It seems as if the world thinks we’re only good at telling a sad story. I wonder if all the ppl who are praising this oscar win and Sharmeen would ever risk going against the grain and speaking up about women’s rights in their normal, day to day lives in pakistan…. yeah, i highly doubt that. Unless the world and society stamps approval on something, a news package, an idea, the masses don’t breathe a word against it. U know what we need? Something groundbreaking ? not just a documentary on acid burn victims but all the victims of mistreatment, including in the higher and middle class, wives and daughters and mothers whose families treat them like second class citizens… husbands marry other women simultaneously, hitting a female isnt really a big deal, and so on. But if we admitted that this happens in every class, the ‘ news story’ would never come to light because that would bother god fearing ppl who usually associate such things with religion and conservatism (islam may to 4 shadiyaan allowed hain :) ) . How about how female servants are treated in our country? No one wants to do a documentary on that, because heck, we all have them and … it would hurt our egos to actually honestly do a real ‘womens rights’ type of news story on them. We can talk about acid burn victims because hey, we read blogs and use the internet and no one in our class really goes through that, so its comfortable to feel sorry for them, the problem doesnt exist in us… ofcourse, we can thus applaud sharmeen obaid chinoy for pointing out one of the ‘problems of pakistan’ and make sympathetic faces.


  • semra jalil
    Mar 4, 2012 - 10:42PM

    Saving face is not highlighting Pakistan’s problems only it also honors the sincerity and efforts of Dr Jawad the Pakistani surgeon in the documentary who performs reconstructive surgery on the acid attack victims free of cost and traveling all the way from resident London to do this. What does that say about Pakistan and Pakistani’s in general-its honorable. And while Sharmeen has indeed spoken about acid victims that might ‘devalue and thus impress’ western critics- which i feel is a very narrow way of looking at victory and even narrower way of avoiding persistent problems in the country- she has also made Highway of Tears a documentary about missing aboriginal Canadian women since the last three decades along British Columbia highway 16. Largely she seems more interested in highlighting women-related issues and that is entirely her choice. Btw have you heard of Charlie Wilson’s War? That was an honest effort by Mike Nichols, an American, in examining the far-reaching consequences of the American govt’s ignorance in their covert dealings with Afghanistan-that film had various Oscar nominations. There is no point in psycho-analyzing film makers intentions nor Oscar wins-just take it for what it is like everyone else does. And be proud for a change and accept both internal problems and victory with grace.


  • Mar 5, 2012 - 10:54PM

    Sharmeen has brought shame to the nation by exposing a negative image.

    When a bomb blasts, a car accident or earth quake occurs, crying mothers, hungry children who have not received help, in seconds such news, with pictures is flashed around the world. By doing this, is the news media acting as an agent of foreign interests who enjoys ridiculing you and me?

    When an ambulance driver from Edhi Help organisation rushes, to a place of worship of some sect, which has been bombed with worshipers in it, carrying some paramedics, is he not drawing attention to the negative aspects of the society?

    When a mutilated body of an infant is retrieved from a garbage dump by some help center, is it aimed bringing bad name? If an out-of-wedlock child, left at one of the dropping places, is taken care of, nursed, fed and even schooled till s/he can stand on its own feet, should the help centre be condemned for that? It exposes structural failure due to inadequacy of available service, which in turn originates in the values, that cares the least for life of a human being.

    If that wasn’t enough, Sharmeen, you wore a sleeveless for the occasion!


  • mgsaz
    Mar 9, 2012 - 12:21AM

    You are correct about your input and observation yet the article that Nadir has written highlights a core deficiency in our system: we fail to recognise achievers and doers in our country ourselves. Let’s not forget how we have even failed to acknowledge the genius of Salam. We turned away Eqbal Ahmed. Both these men came to give back to the country, not just through cosmetic surgery but through actual change that would revolutionise society. They are no longer in this world and we can’t cry over spilt milk. Problems in Pakistan should be considered cutting across class, gender and age. In my opinion, the greatest problem facing our society is poverty and inequitable distribution of resources. The great class divide afflicts all men, women, children, whether old or young. We need to get our mindset off a “woman’s thing” only. I speak as a woman for all of humanity. We, as individuals, have been given a job to act as stewards on this Earth for all of mankind, not selective wo-mankind.


  • Mar 13, 2012 - 2:46PM

    Having worked for almost a decade in the NGO sector in Pakistan, I totally understand what Nadir is saying. Its interesting how the Oscar has opened debates from the congratulatory thumps on the back to controversial and downright cynical comments. No matter which angle we choose to look from the facts remain the same. Winning an Oscar is a great thing, I think one should not mix that achievement with cynicism. The other part about what is acclaimed in the western world or what are ‘catch phrases’ for securing funding of a ‘development’ project that helps to alleviate some distress of the target audience while securing jobs for many ‘intellectuals working in the NGO world’ rings true.


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