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.”