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In a first for Pakistan, ‘Saving Face’ wins documentary Oscar

February 27
03:31 2012

Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy accept the Oscar for best documentary short for “Saving Face” during the 84th Academy Awards on Sundayin Los Angeles

LOS ANGELES: A Pakistani short film on the tribulation and courage of victims of acid attacks won a historic trophy at the Academy Awards this year, making its co-director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy the first from the country to win an Oscar.

The film ‘Saving Face’ by Daniel Junge and Chinoy, the first ever Pakistani film to be nominated for the prestigious award won the Documentary (Short Subject) Academy.

The film follows British plastic surgeon Dr Mohammad Jawad, who returns to his homeland to help victims of acid burns and performs reconstructive surgeries on survivors.

It also follows the story of a woman as she fights to see that the perpetrators of the crime are imprisoned for life.

Chinoy dedicated the award to the women of Pakistan.

“All the women in Pakistan working for change, don’t give up on your dreams, this is for you,” she said.

The documentary was pitted against ‘God Is the Bigger Elvis’, a Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson film about a mid-century starlet who chose the church over Hollywood, and ‘The Barber of Birmingham’, a Gail Dolgin and Robin Fryday film that follows the life of 85-year-old barber James Armstrong and the legacy of the civil rights movement.

Other contenders were James Spione’s war film ‘Incident in New Baghdad’ and ‘The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom’, a film that follows survivors of Japan’s 2011 earthquake and their struggle to recover from the catastrophic waves that crushed their homes and lives. It was a tough call for Chinoy, who was dealing with pregnancy and had just lost her father too at the time.

The documentary, which is filmed across Islamabad, Rawalpindi and small towns of Punjab, was released in the US in November. It is due to release in the UK in March 2012.

Chinoy managed to convince victims of acid attacks to speak about their experience, even as the victims and their families feared more attacks for speaking out.

“The single act of throwing acid on a woman’s face completely ruins her life. It’s like the living dead, because if you throw acid on a woman’s face, she can seldom go home after that. To me, it’s the most heinous of all crimes against women,” Chinoy said in an interview before the Oscar ceremony.

Yet Chinoy didn’t want anyone to pity these women.

“…the film needed to show them to have dignity, of how they are resilient women. I don’t want anyone to watch the film and pity these women. I want them to look at this film and say wow, they give me hope!”

Chinoy, who has been accused of showing the Muslim world and Pakistan in a bad light, said this was a positive story about how a doctor chose to give it back to his country by helping its people.

Chinoy chose to wear outfits and jewellery designed by Pakistani women designers because she wanted the Oscar show to be an all women event. –PTI

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