Why Sharmeen’s Oscar win was much-awaited in Pakistan | Pakistan Today

Why Sharmeen’s Oscar win was much-awaited in Pakistan

A s 33-year-old Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy stood with her Oscar in a Bunto Kazmi designer outfit, she represented the many parts of the whole that is Pakistan; in fact, the Subcontinent. What the world got to see was a young stylishly dressed bare-armed Muslim woman – head uncovered – bag the Oscar for ‘Saving Face’, a documentary film on victims of acid attacks whose faces had been rendered featureless. In the one minute that Sharmeen held centre-stage at the Oscar awards, this upwardly mobile Pakistani – she is said to have British nationality, but then, in Pakistan, many hold two passports – told the world that her country cannot be boxed into one definition or seen purely in terms of black and white. All credit to her co-director Daniel Junge for recognising the significance of the moment and allowing Sharmeen to take the spotlight.
Much like her films, she minced no words. In less than 30 seconds, she said, “Daniel and I want to dedicate this award to all the heroes working on the ground in Pakistan, including Dr Mohammad Jawad who is here with us today. The plastic surgeon working on rehabilitating all these women… Ruksana and Zakia who are our main subjects of the film, whose resilience and bravery in the face of such adversity is admirable. And to all the women of Pakistan who are working for change, don’t give up on your dreams. This is for you.”
Back home, this was the moment everyone was waiting for: a rare feel-good factor for the people of a blighted nation. For friend of 21 years standing and television anchorperson Wajahat S Khan, the Oscar was a testimony to her hard work and consistency. “The only thing consistent about Sharmeen is her almost stubborn consistency. Everything else may be subject to change, deletion, dynamism or even evolution. But Sharmeen is almost martial in her valour to deliver.”
INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM: The eldest of five sisters and one brother, Sharmeen was born to a well-placed family of Karachi.
After schooling at the Karachi Grammar School, she went on to do her graduation from Smith College and then masters from Stanford University.
She was in college in the US when 9/11 happened. Interested in investigative journalism, she decided to use film-making – in which she has no professional training – to bridge the gulf the attacks created between the East and the West.
Self- and on-the-job-trained, Sharmeen’s first documentary was on the lives of Afghan refugee children living in Pakistan.
Christened ‘Terrors Children’, she bagged two awards for her maiden venture and there has been no looking back since.
She now has 16 documentaries to her name in the 10 years that she has been into film-making and has been awarded for many of them. Prior to the Oscar, the Emmy was the biggest award that she held for her 2009 film ‘Pakistan’s Taliban Generation/Children of The Taliban’.
Her work has taken her to Afghanistan to see how life has changed for Afghan women after the American occupation in ‘Lifting the Veil: Afghanistan Unveiled’; Iraq, Syria and Jordan to track the plight of Iraqi refugees in ‘Iraq: The Lost Generation’; Sweden to capture the tensions between locals and immigrant Muslims in ‘Assimilation No, Integration Yes’; Saudi Arabia for focusing on the second-class status of women in ‘Women of the Holy Kingdom’.
The list is rather exhaustive, including South Africa, Canada, Timor, the Philippines and even India where she boarded the Samjhauta Express from the Indian side to find out how fellow Pakistanis were reacting to the baby steps being taken by the two countries towards peace.
Though her repertoire touches upon a wide range of issues, Sharmeen has been criticised back home for projecting the underside – something that a nation prone to believing in conspiracy theories sees as anti-Pakistan propaganda. Part of this is because her films have little exposure here. The same was said of ‘Saving Face’ – which premieres on HBO on the International Women’s Day (Thursday) – but more than being a film about acid attack victims, the documentary focuses on a Pakistani-British doctor returning to his native place to help victims with reconstructive surgery and dwells on the effort made by women politicians of Pakistan to enact a law criminalising acid attacks.

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  1. Aamir Zeb said:

    By presenting Academy award to Sharmeen Obaid on her documentary “Saving Face” America has tainted the image of Pakistan internationally once again. Now it has established an impression that the incidents of acid attack on women in Pakistan are so widespread that every woman in Pakistan is under the threat of an acid attack. This implicitly portrays an image of highly uncivilized society of Pakistan. America the so called friend of Pakistan always does such acts which would tarnish the image of Pakistan. Announcing Academy award for “Saving Face” they have given the international coverage to this rare criminal activity. If Sharmeen would have made a documentary on thousands of victims of Drone attacks or on American political support to corrupt political and military rulers of Pakistan, she would have not been given a chance to even stand for the probable list of Academy Award.

    • Anon said:

      America/West/Israel are the source of all the evils…actually Pakistan is such a nice country to live that if Allah is watching he will send his 72 angels to live in Pakistan….Sharmeen is wrong highlighting the deeds of the Pak People…Inshah Allah…Long live Pakistan..rest evry country must die…

  2. Anam Sohail said:

    I agree rather next tym bring Oscar wid sum positive image of pakistan! we r aint poor hungry bad ppl!

    • Shabnam said:

      true..if wishes were horses…pakis would be the riders…

    • Khalid said:

      lurend da spllingz- cuz u r on da interanetz,..

  3. Binte Rizvi Firouzabadi said:

    anam, aamir, please make better use of brains. the documentary says 140 women are acid attack victims in pakistan every year….in a population of 18 crores. the docu also says this practise is more rampant towards rural multan. please tell me where it says that all pakistani women are under threat???

  4. Salman Zuberi said:

    America has not tainted the image of Pakistan but its the Pakistanis themselves who have done that to themselves. This Oscar is perhaps a divine call for people to look inwards and realize the heinous crimes that are committed in this so called Islamic republic against women.

    Hiding your face away from crime or pushing them under the rug will not make it go away. Ignorance is bliss!

  5. guest said:

    She is not a Pakistani but Canadian, I don't understand Pakistanis celebrating this GaGa lady's award which was given to her for political reasons.

    • Be sharmeen said:

      I am surprised no tattoos on her arms'…LOL and her award acceptance flick should be called ' holding hands'..!!

  6. Muhammad Usman said:

    Yup, lets shift the blame to America because thats the easiest way out and easily the most cowardly too. Those saying this movie didn't deserve an award probably supported Musharraf when he asked Mukhtara not to wash her dirty laundry internationally. If the welcome of this oscar in Pakistan puts even one woman out of danger, i'd say it fulfilled its purpose.

  7. imran khan said:

    BLAH! Thats wot these goras are like! they like to see the negative side of the eastern world. they awarded slumdog millioanire beause it highlighted the poverty and ugliness of india, similarly, this documentary was honored for bringing the dark side of pakistan into view…oscar my left foot

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