Emmy Award winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s latest film Saving Face has won an Oscar nomination in the category "Best Documentary, Short Subject".
Saving Face is the story of two women from Southern Punjab who are victims of acid attack. “It’s a positive story about Pakistan on two accounts: firstly, it portrays how a Pakistani-British doctor comes to treat them and it also discusses, in great depth, the parliament’s decision to pass a bill on acid violence,” Obaid-Chinoy had said when her film was short-listed for nominations in October 2011, according The Express Tribune. The recently passed Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill requires that the perpetrators of acid violence be punished with life in prison.
Saving Face features a British Pakistani doctor; Dr. Muhammad Ali Jawad, a graduate of Karachi's Dow Medical College. He became famous after he performed revolutionary plastic surgery on Katie Piper, a British model who was burned by acid thrown in her face by her ex boyfriend. Dr. Jawad traveled back to Pakistan to help some of the women victims of acid violence. It's the story of his journey to Pakistan, but it's also a story of two Pakistani women who were victims of acid attacks and how they dealt with the aftermath of the attacks.
Saving Face was released in the US in November, 2011, and the Oscars will be awarded on February 26, 2012.
Born in 1978 in Karachi, Sharmeen is the first Pakistani to win an Emmy award. She won it for her documentary Pakistan: Children of the Taliban in 2010. She graduated from Smith College in the United States with a bachelor of arts in economics and government and then went to complete two master's degrees from Stanford University in International Policy Studies and Mass Communications.
Obaid-Chinoy began her career with New York Times Television in 2002 with the production of 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 twelve films around the world. Her films have been shown on Channel 4, CNN, PBS, and Al-Jazeera English.
Sharmeen has a very ambitious social and educational reform agenda for her country. In addition to her career as a filmmaker, Sharmeen is a TED fellow and a social entrepreneur. She is actively working to bring about an "education revolution" in Pakistan's Sindh province. "There needs to be an overhaul," Obaid-Chinoy recently told Fast Company. "Textbooks are outdated and I've been working with the government on how to encourage critical thinking and move away from rote memorization....It's tough, because the mindset is not there. The teachers are essentially products of the same system. We have to break the culture, which takes a long time."
Sindh's teachers are now spending significant time in professional training with education experts to try and reform the teaching of English, math, and social studies. "We're really making this a movement for education for social change," Obaid-Chinoy told Fast Company.
What Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and her fellow social entrepreneurs are doing in Pakistan's unhealthy culture of complaints is truly inspirational. Let's hope others will follow in her footsteps to light candles and not just curse darkness.
Here's an Urdu video clip of Sharmeen's reaction to Oscar nomination: