A First for Pakistan: Bringing Home an Academy Award

While the Academy Awards are a time to celebrate the year’s most successful movies, this year Pakistanis had something even greater to celebrate. Pakistani filmmaker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, and  co-director, Daniel Junge, brought home the Oscar for best short documentary their film “Saving Face.” The plot of the movie is a tale that many Pakistani women unfortunately know all to well. The film portrays two Pakistani women who each have survived acid attacks, and their plight in bringing their attackers to justice. The film also portrays a British plastic surgeon who tries to repair the terrible injuries that the women have sustained. The film is based on the real life occurrence that is still prevalent throughout Pakistan, even though a strict law was introduced last year, which mandates a sentence of life in prison for those convicted in acid attacks. In the movie, one scene depicts the plastic surgeon seeing a patient who has been attacked by her “husband who threw battery acid on her, a sister-in-law who doused her with gasoline and a mother-in-law who struck the match that set her on fire.”

In fact, every year in Pakistan, at least 150 people are victimized by brutal acid attacks, and many more of these cases go unreported. The victims are terribly injured, both physically and emotionally, and many have little or no money to get reconstructive surgery. The assailant is usually someone close to the victim, most notably an abusive husband, and these assailants have been known to get away will minimal punishment.

While the film sounds horrific and sad, it is important to remember that the main focus is one of hope. Ms. Obaid-Chinoy’s mother, Saba, explained, “the campaign is mainly aimed at making our society more humane and better to live in. It is to help and remedy those who are victims of such brutality and injustice.” The film’s website exclaims that is it “uniquely positioned to advance awareness, education and prevention efforts.”

4 comments

  1. By far, I was extremely happy to watch Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Daniel Junge receive the award for short documentary for their film, “Saving Face.” During the acceptance speech on stage, Chinoy said that she and Junge were dedicating the award to the “heroes” working in Pakistan, namely the plastic surgeon, Dr. Jawad, working on rehabilitating all of the women. These women are the victims of brutual violence at the hands of loved ones. Chinoy eloquently and staunchly conveyed a message to Pakistani women, working for change in their country: “Don’t give up on your dreams.” Like you said, Lizzie, this award sends a message of hope to these women as well as all women victimized by domestic violence, especially when the violence is condoned (or ignored) by public officials and governments alike. Most importantly, this film will bring much more awareness to others, whether they are living within or beyond the Pakistani borders. It reiterates the focus on much needed change, and it is clear that there are people willing to help bring about that change even sooner.

  2. I think it’s great that this film has won an Oscar. Like Amy pointed out, hopefully this will have the effect of bringing the issue to light and informing people. I was recently speaking with one of my friends about this and she had no idea that something so horrible was even happening. And while the film focused on Pakistan, it is important to note that this is a much larger issue that affects many countries throughout the world, including England. There are even instances of men being attacked by religious extremists for not growing beards.

    I find it very interesting the responses that governments have taken to curbing acid attacks. In Pakistan, the Quisas laws which are enforced under Shari’a allow for the victim to have retaliation against her attacker essentially by throwing acid onto him. There was a recent case where an attacker was to have acid poured into his eyes by his victim, but at the last minute she pardoned him. Pakistan’s Parliament has also recently passed laws punishing acid attacks with life imprisonment. While I’m glad the governments are taking this seriously, I’m doubtful that this will be enough to curb this latest trend in violence towards women.

  3. I am looking forward to seeing this film. Just seconds after this film received an Oscar, I was comparing the different acceptance speeches at the Academy Awards. This acceptance speech had meaning and therefore stood out. It did not thank every person who ever spent a penny or second on the film set like the rest of the speeches do. Instead, the Oscar was dedicated to the heros in Pakistan. This speech alone should help influence Americans to see this film.

  4. I think that it is great that a documentary like this has won an Academy Award. I think Americans are somewhat sheltered from and naive about these types of realities, so having this type of documentary win an American award helps shed some light on the subject for those who may not have ever been aware of this harsh reality. Many people watch the Academy Awards and are then intrigued to watch some of the films that have won just to see what they are all about, and that seems to be the case with this film. “Saving Face” was put on a lot of Americans radar after winning the Academy Award, so we can only hope that the documentary is not only viewed by many people, but actually helps progress occur in Pakistan. It is one thing to educate people and it is another thing to actually have those people do something to help. I hope that this documentary does inspire people to help in any way that they can.

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