In conversation with Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

Published Jan 24, 2012 04:36pm

Sharmeen Obaid on sets.
Sharmeen Obaid on sets.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy is bold. She seeks stories that touch the heart and turns them into movies that break it. Having worked on subjects ranging from child abuse, violence against women, terrorism and natural disasters, Chinoy is passionate about films and views everything through a human mind and yet with the lens of her camera.

From being a brilliant journalist, to an established filmmaker, Chinoy has come a long way. After becoming the first Pakistani to win an Emmy Award, the first non-US citizen to win the Livingston Award for Young Journalist, she has now become the first Pakistani individual to earn an Oscar nomination.

Last October, Chinoy revealed that her documentary Saving Face had entered the shortlist of Best Documentary (short film) category for the Oscars.

Here, she talks to Dawn.com about the long journey to the Oscars, moments after the Oscar nominations were revealed.

What was it that motivated you to work on this subject, which continues to be neglected in the mainstream media? The film chronicles the work of acclaimed British Pakistani plastic surgeon, Dr Mohammad Jawad as he travelled to Pakistan and performed reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid violence. There my co-director, Daniel Junge suggested that we should make a documentary on this. I was sold in an instant, since I personally feel that acid attacks are the worst form of violence, I stuck to the idea and was determined to show the world the process a woman goes through after this hideous act. I would also like to thank the women for the resilience, patience and dedication they showed throughout the filming of this documentary.

The movie is shot entirely in the Seraiki belt. How common are acid attacks in that part of the country? The Seraiki belt is sadly the most backward and conservative area of Pakistan, where torturing women is not considered a crime.

What have your critics said about the documentary and its nomination now? It has been released only in American cinemas and has received a great response so far. Regarding the nomination [chuckles], it has just been an hour since the nominations came out so no criticism yet.

Do you have any plans to follow the lives of these victims? Yes we have a complete program ready for this. We will be reaching out through a nationwide program, where we will screen this documentary and encourage the victims to speak at local colleges and schools in order to spread awareness. Also, we will be working with international organisations to provide the victims with skills through training programs and there are plans to rehabilitate some of these women.

What is the status of Taboo Beauty? Taboo Beauty has been renamed to Transgenders: Pakistan’s Open Secret and has already been screened in the UK.

When and how does the Pakistani public get to see Saving Face? The film will be aired on March 8 by HBO, which will be followed by screening in selected cinemas across Pakistan.


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Comments (34) Closed




Zain
Jan 24, 2012 11:19pm
Being on Oscar is good thing, but why not project something positive about Pakistan. Why keep showing the whole world our negative things. Out of many millions things, a person could have chosen to be showcased about Pakistan, its natural beauty, the Northern Areas, the Lakes, etc. sadly this was the best we could show to the world. The world already things bad of us, by showing them our weaknesses, specially to the Western Audiances, do you think they will have any sympathies for us, No!. The Western Media loves such humiliating movies documentaries and we Pakistanies love to prove to them how much we can produce such humilating self-degrading movies to please them.
Shahid Khan
Jan 24, 2012 11:19pm
Too sad,showing our society's ugliest part to the world gives us chance to win international competition awards. I wish it was based on showing the innovative and creative ideas that we could have generated inside our borders. But sadly thats is a reality of our society, watching these innocents suffer.
Tuba Syed
Jan 25, 2012 12:44am
very Inspiring to see females from Pakistan making a name for themselves. Keep up the good work and i will definitely try and catch the movie.
Raj
Jan 25, 2012 03:19am
Sharmeen, Heartiest congratulations, and wishing you all the best for the final outcome, can't wait to see you holding that pretty lady in your hands.
Asghar Laique
Jan 25, 2012 05:39am
You go girl!! :-)xxoo
FM
Jan 25, 2012 02:56pm
Spot on, Zain. Our intellectuals thrive on cheap publicity and the western media is hungry for such ugly stories from Pakistan. Thank you Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy !
Tariq
Jan 25, 2012 03:25pm
Because no one else cares.
shirjheel
Jan 25, 2012 04:50pm
Girl, You rock, you made us all proud, i am proud to be a Pakistani, thank you for giving us back our identity and courage
M. hanif Arif (Lahor
Jan 25, 2012 05:49pm
Very Good work Sharmeen! the above negative comments people have given is not about u, you are playing your part as a active Generalist and we wish you best of luck. Those comments are for the Western Media who always want the show the world the Negative Side of us the the whole world. Once again Best of Luck!
mani
Jan 25, 2012 06:07pm
Its great effort but why people not potraying positive attitude of our society. We are the nation in last 5 yrs come out of worst earthquake,Floods and internal rufugee settlement in Swat without great international state. there are many good real stories. But i never seen them on mainstream media.You are looking just black spot: sure you can find even on cleanest white sheet.
jun
Jan 25, 2012 06:32pm
Agree.Pakistan Lollywood directors should start throwing out the singing dancing culture out,and start make quality movies which educate our young people.We should never copy Indian unrealistic fancy dance/singing which pollutes immature young people.Those who want to watch that,see Bollywood.We have responsibility to produce better realistic brains.Hope this accomplishment may change this to some better trend in Pakistan Film Industry
jun
Jan 25, 2012 06:34pm
we should face our ugly faces.Beginning of change
jun
Jan 25, 2012 06:44pm
But it is a sad reality.We should never brush this evil under our carpet.Brutality against women,whether it be acid attacks,or other DV,if a massage of this film can save one women in the world,I think we should never be afraid even our national dignity,our faces are blackened infront of world.Afterall,accepting weakness is real strenght,only wise understand this rule of nature
Ansar
Jan 25, 2012 06:59pm
Negating Pakistan is also easy, finding something good or positive to showcase about Pakistan or any 3rd world country, is quite difficult.
Bakhtawer Bilal
Jan 25, 2012 07:09pm
Bravo, Zain, FM and Shahid Khan. You have the courage to promote the attitude of "sweeping under the carpet." This is exactly what we have been doing for the last more than 60 years. Lets not see the evil, and pretend it is not there. So proud of Sharmeen.
FM
Jan 25, 2012 07:23pm
That's all we seem to be doing 24/7 on ALL our news channels ALL the time !! Pakistani media have demoralized the population more than anyone else has. And thanks to people like this lady, now millions of people around the world will associate Pakistan with Acid attacks on women instead of something positive !
SF
Jan 25, 2012 07:49pm
I have read a lot of comments on why we have shown an ugly face of Pakistan and not something positive, and that the Western media thrives on such stories. Having lived in the West for last 10 years I don't believe it is entirely true. I think as Pakistanis’ we should be proud of the work our fellow citizen has produced and reflect upon this deplorable practice we have in our society. It’s unfortunate but I think that only when the West pays attention to a problem that exists in our country it becomes important enough for us as a society to think, act and do something about it. Regardless whether we get the Oscar or not, I would look at this nomination as an excellent opportunity for us Pakistanis to realize how brutal this act is and try to eradicate it. Sharmeen has already made us proud and I hope she will bring home the honor. Best of luck to Pakistan!
Agha Asad Raza
Jan 25, 2012 08:07pm
Good girl, well done!
Ammar
Jan 25, 2012 08:56pm
Congrats Sharmeen.... Feeling proud after reading this all. My Request As you said the Saraiki belt is most backward & poor part of our country,and you wana do something for us.My request is that do it as your first priority. God bless u
Mahmood Hassan
Jan 25, 2012 09:02pm
great work. god keep you steadfast, good girl.
Saleha Minto
Jan 25, 2012 09:51pm
Ansar, FM, Zain and all of the rest who think Pakistan & the 3rd world should be 'portrayed' in a 'good' way please take some time to ask yourselves a few questions: 1. Is a documentary a 'portrait' or a snapshot? 2. Should a documentary even be a 'portrait'? 3. Why portray a pretty picture of ourselves when we are not that pretty? Wouldn't it be deceitful? 4. Why are we so afraid of telling (even ourselves) that we have long stopped being pretty... even the northern areas are not pretty anymore... because we keep throwing our garbage around ... exactly the way we keep throwing acid in women's faces!
AHA
Jan 25, 2012 11:04pm
I agree, entirely.
Sharjil
Jan 26, 2012 12:45am
Dear sister Sharmeen, I myself have as much loathing of ignorant people as you do. However, you are equally disgraceful as the acid-throwers. You have ONLY been nominated for an Oscar because your film sings to the political tune of the populist anti-Pak propaganda of the day. Your film is especially pleasing to Hollywood as it is a supposed "proud Pakistani" who has produced it. Are you REALLY so egotistical that you believe that they value your film-making skills? Does a single atom in your self-consumed body even pause to think that they only love you because you condemn Pakistan in a way that Holywood loves to dramatise and exploit in order to justify USA's ongoing dehumanisation of Pakistanis and consequent global desensitisation to deaths due to drone attacks?? Your film will NOT help our sisters who are dying from acid attacks. In fact, it will INCREASE their risk of dying from drone attacks. Thank you very much for this betrayal and please close the door on your way out. From a proud secular liberal Pakistani.
Shehna Saqib
Jan 26, 2012 01:26am
Fascinating to see a female like Sharmeen who has taken some bold step in making this happen. Congrats on this wonderful achievement. We are proud of you. Keep up the excellent work!!!
Hassan R. Warraich
Jan 26, 2012 08:54am
Much inspirational and motivating.........it takes a lots of guts to highlight such social evils. Surely you'll be the role model for many and raise much awareness among the masses to cleanse the society from such malicious treatments.I wish you win the Oscar Award!
Sohail Rizvi
Jan 26, 2012 12:24pm
Agree with jun 100%.....
Sohail Rizvi
Jan 26, 2012 12:25pm
FM ! u r so right ...
A.J.Siddiqui
Jan 26, 2012 02:28pm
Congratulations! Ms.Sharmeen Obaid on your Oscar nomination for the documentary film 'Saving Face'. I have'nt seen the documentary yet, so I can not comment on that. But I would take this opportunity to thank you for your another highly commendable as well as courageous reporting for a tv documentary "Pakistan on a Razor's Edge".
Raana
Jan 26, 2012 03:59pm
Sharmeen many congratulations.It is inspirational and encouraging for many up coming young film making students.I have not seen the documentary yet but i would like to see as soon as I get it.It is an honor foe all young film makers of Pakistan who are trying to find their way in this grey environment .
ZAK
Jan 28, 2012 04:04am
Throwing light on a crude injustice regardless of the country of origin is neccessary. One hopes that through such endeavours we create an awareness among the powers that be to act upon it. That action must bring about change that will be positve for the victims and the society that holds those vicitms. This is an absolute positive for Pakistan. To believe that the worth and popularity of this documentary is fuelled by the agena do degrade Pakistan may or may not be warranted. I for one don't care. In fact, if that agenda leads to a better Pakistan then I support it. My 2 paisas....
Asif khan
Jan 28, 2012 10:47am
ONE OF THE MOST CRUEL ACT AGAINST WOMEN. BUT WE SHOULD NOT SIT & ONLY SAY IT IS BAD , UGLY OR HENIOUS CRIME. LET US CONSIDER TIT FOR TAT SITUATION. IF SOME ONE DESHAPED A HUMAN BEING THAN SAME PERSON MUST BE GIVEN AUTHORITY TO TAKE REVANGE.
Anirban R. Mehta
Jan 31, 2012 11:36am
So you are saying Pakistanis are just ugly down to the core and thus the documentary is justified in capturing in totality what your nation is? Which means Tony Lazaro (who wrote to Times magazine about how he found Pakistan nothing like the dark picture they portray) went somewhere else (maybe India) and thought it was Pakistan... right?
Umair Saeed
Jan 31, 2012 11:48am
What had to be said about this documentary has already been said in various comments above. Go visit her site: http://sharmeenobaidfilms.com/ It's amazing how one can just see through her by just looking at the landing page of this website. There are four links with pictures representing Asia, Africa, Europe and America. The picture for Asia is a bunch of poor women in Burqas; the one for Africa is enslaved men, thrown down, hands tied behind their back. However, both Europe and America feature cute and happy pictures of kids having fun. How interesting ehh??
nazi
Feb 03, 2012 09:52pm
YES YES YES Yes we do have within us such evils that need to be faced and eradicated Yes we dont need oscar nominations to give these documentaries extra importance Yes this is alot of hard work dedication and courage to be actually made into adocumentary YET IN THIS ALL TIME LOW FOR PAKISTAN TELL ME IS THERE NO TRUE STORIES OF COURAGE/DIGNITY/BEAUTY/SACRIFICE AND MOST IMPORTANT OF ALL RESILIENCE SHOW THE WORLD !!!!!!!!!!