Sharmeen Chinoy’s Saving Face Brings Pakistan its First Oscar

Posted on February 29, 2012 in Media and Culture

By P. V. Swati:

Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy this year was not only the first-time Oscar nominee, but won an Academy Award on Monday for her documentary Saving Face, a work on the acid attack victim. Chinoy won the first ever Oscar for Pakistan. Her victory shines a spotlight on a subject which affects thousands of women in Pakistan and other third-world countries.

The film was directed by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Daniel Junge in collaboration. Junge has been previously nominated for a both an Oscar and an Emmy. Junge was the one who initiated the project and later approached Chinoy.

The film follows London-based Pakistani plastic surgeon, Dr. Mohammad Jawad, as he journeys to Pakistan to perform reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid violence. Saving Face also touches upon the subject of the under-reporting of acid violence due to cultural and structural inequalities towards women in the social system. More than 100 people, mainly women and girls, are disfigured in acid attacks every year in Pakistan, although groups helping survivors say many more cases go unreported. Victims are often permanently blinded, and their scar tissue can become infected with septicaemia or gangrene. With little or no access to reconstructive surgery, survivors are physically and emotionally scarred, while many reported assailants — typically a husband or someone close to the victim — are let go with minimal punishment from the state. These acid attacks thus, have become a common means of punishing alleged transgressions.

Saving Face tells the stories of two acid-attack survivors: Zakia and Rukhsana, their arduous attempts to bring their assailants to justice, and the charitable work of London-based, Pakistani-born plastic surgeon Dr. Mohammad Jawad, who strives to help these women put this horrific act behind them and move on with their lives. Saving face also highlights the efforts of the women across Pakistani society which is making efforts to help this vexing issue and make a change with their efforts. Saving Face thus is an intimate look inside Pakistani society, illuminating each woman’s personal journey while showing how reformers are tackling this problem.

As a part of her winning speech Chinoy said “I want to dedicate this award to all the heroes working on the ground in Pakistan, including Dr. Mohammad Jawad, the plastic surgeon who has been working for rehabilitating these women, Rukhsana and Zakiya 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 in Pakistan who are working for change. Do not give up on your dreams.” The film will broadcast internationally in 2012, beginning with HBO in North America and Channel Four in the UK.

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