LOS ANGELES: Pakistani filmmaker and first-time Oscar nominee Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an Academy Award on Monday for her documentary about acid attack victims, a first for a Pakistani.
In her acceptance speech, 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.
Directed by Daniel Junge and produced by Sharmeen Chinoy, the film follows British plastic surgeon Dr. Mohammad Jawad, who returns to his homeland to help victims of acid burns.
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.
“The women who decided to be a part of the documentary did so because they wanted to make their voices heard and wanted to bring attention to this form of assault,” Chinoy said in an interview conducted before she won the Oscar.
“The main reason that they are in ‘Saving Face’ is to make their stories heard and have an impact.”
Many victims are women attacked by their husbands, and others assaulted for turning down a proposal of marriage. One girl in the documentary describes how she was burned after rejecting the advances of her teacher. She was 13 at the time.
Another woman featured in the film is 25-year-old Rukhsana, whose husband threw acid on her and her sister-in-law doused her in gasoline before her mother-in-law lit a match and set her on fire.
Chinoy said she hopes the cases in her film will resonate for others in Pakistan.
“It is a story of hope with a powerful message for the Pakistani audience. I felt this would be a great way to show how Pakistanis can help other Pakistanis overcome their problems,” she said.
Chinoy’s films have won international acclaim. Her 2010 documentary, Pakistan’s Taliban Generation, won an International Emmy Award.
The documentary competed against “God Is the Bigger Elvis,” a Rebecca Cammisa and Julie Anderson film about a mid-century starlet who chose the church over Hollywood; “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; James Spione’s war film “Incident in New Baghdad”; and “The Tsunami and the Cherry Blossom,” a film by Lucy Walker and Kira Carstensen that follows survivors of Japan’s 2011 earthquake and their struggle to recover from the wave that crushed their homes and lives.