The big screen awards have thrown up a bigger surprise for the Pakistanis across the world — UK included. The 84th Oscar Awards saw a Pakistani director win her country’s first Oscar for short documentary film ‘Saving Face’.
For the Pakistanis, it could not have been better this year. It all started with Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy getting an Academy Award nomination for her documentary Saving Face in the category of Best Documentary (Short Subject).
And then, Sunday night was the moment of glory for her and the Pakistanis all over, as she got up to take home the Oscar.
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s documentary is based on acid victims and their effort to return to the ordinary world and lead a normal life after the trauma. It follows a British-Pakistani plastic surgeon who performs reconstructive surgeries on acid attack survivors in Pakistan
Sharmeen Obaid was born in Karachi and attended the Karachi Grammar School before she graduated from Smith College with a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Government.
From Stanford Uni, she graduated with master's degrees in International Policy Studies and in Communication.
Known for documentaries dealing with life in the Muslim world, Obaid became the first non-American to win the Livingston Award. Her films have aired on such networks as Channel 4, CNN, PBS, and Al-Jazeera.
Obaid began her career with New York Times Television in 2002 where she produced Terror's Children, a film about Afghan refugee children, which won her the Overseas Press Club Award, the American Women and Radio and Television Award, and the South Asian Journalist Association Award. Since then, she has produced and reported on more than 12 films around the world.
Obaid produced and reported on four multi-award winning documentary films for New York Times Television. In 2003, Reinventing the Taliban was awarded the Special Jury Award at the BANFF TV festival in Canada, the CINE Golden Eagle Award, the American Women in Radio and Television award, and the Livingston Award.
In 2005, her film Women of the Holy Kingdom, which provided an inside look at the women's movement in Saudi Arabia, won the South Asian Journalist Association Award.
In 2005, Obaid began working with Channel 4 in the United Kingdom reporting on four films for their Unreported World series. Pakistan's Double Game looked at sectarian violence in Pakistan, City of Guilt explored the Catholic Church's pro-life movement in the Philippines, The New Apartheid looked into growing xenophobia in South Africa, and Birth of a Nation delved into the politics of East Timor. In 2007, Obaid was named "journalist of the year" by the One World Media awards for her work in the series.
In 2007, Obaid travelled to Afghanistan and reported for Channel 4 and CNN. Her film, Afghanistan Unveiled/Lifting the Veil, focuses on stalled reconstruction and the repression of women in the country.
In 2010, she won an Emmy Award for her documentary, Pakistan: Children of the Taliban, which explores Taliban recruitment strategies, their effect on the youth and their methods to radicalize the country’s young and often dejected populace.
Children of the Taliban premiered FiLums (2011) – the largest film festival in Pakistan held annually at the Lahore University of Management Sciences.
The first Pakistani to receive an Oscar, Obaid-Chinoy is looking forward to screen the award-winning film at local schools, colleges, universities and communities for generating awareness on victims of acid violence.
Pakistani film-maker Adnan Malik commented said: “I feel like I have woken up to a new chapter in Pakistan’s history. Sharmeen has diligently stuck to her dreams and she is a fantastic Pakistani ambassador. This Oscar is for the entire nation and it has broken the floodgates of what Pakistanis are capable of. Pakistani arts are now firmly entrenched on the world map.”
A journalist and film-maker, Hasan Zaidi, added, “You can knock us down and watch us bleed but you can’t keep chains on Pakistanis. Way to go Sharmeen, you have made us proud and I am sure there are many more Oscars coming our way.”
Watch the video presenting the award-winning film: