KARACHI: Around 9am on Monday social networking websites were inundated with posts (many of which read like virtual screams) congratulating or gleefully commenting on Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Oscar triumph for her film Saving Face in the best documentary short category. For a nation weary of doom and gloom in the media, the euphoria was understandable.
Sharmeen, the celebrated documentary filmmaker, was their new hero.
Reactions from the country’s well-known figures reflected the general exultation. Actress Ayesha Alam Khan enthused, “It’s amazing. Hopefully it will put us on the global film map and encourage other Pakistani filmmakers to continue working hard. The subject of the documentary is such that it will create more awareness.”
Pop singer Fakhir said, “As a Pakistani I feel so proud. It’s such a great achievement. First it was Aisam-ul-Haq Qureshi who popularised tennis in Pakistan by making it to the US Open final, and now because of Sharmeen, documentary filmmaking will gain in popularity. It will encourage the can-do spirit in us. She has shown us the way, opened the door for us. Yes we can.”Media person Ghazi Salahuddin was no less cheerful. “It is indeed a happy occasion,” he said. “Society also needs to improve its face, much like the faces of the victims in the film were improved. And this can only be done through cinema. But the problem is that we have handed the reins of the film industry to Maula Jutts. But nevertheless, it’s a great moment for all of us. The question, however, is: what do we get out of this? It is very important to promote and encourage such efforts. There should be meetings at the top level to work on how to promote creative activities in the realm of cinema or documentary filmmaking.”
A well-known member of the advertising fraternity, Jamal Mir, said, “It’s wonderful news. Pakistan is now visible on a global level at the right kind of forum that is the Oscars. This will create a lot of hope in the country. If our leadership gets its act together the real face of Pakistan, which is far more beautiful than what the world knows, will emerge. You see, there are a great many overseas Pakistanis who are successful in the international arena. Over here the corruption-infested atmosphere denies talented people their due.”
According to prominent media person Javed Jabbar, “First of all it’s an inspiration for new talent and reinforcement of the fact there’s enormous talent in Pakistan, particularly in women filmmakers. It’s a wake-up call for the beloved state (now that the ministry of culture has been devolved to the provinces under the 18th amendment to the constitution). We are neighbours to a country like Iran, which has extreme political tension with the US, yet they are able to encourage filmmakers producing films of extraordinary quality. An Iranian movie won the best foreign language Oscar last night. Despite a theocratic system in Iran, the country actively supports filmmaking, whereas we do absolutely nothing to facilitate filmmakers. Saving Face should have been financed by PTV not HBO. When I wanted Ramchand Pakistani to compete for the Oscars, I was told by the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Sciences (which awards the Oscars) that the film needed to come through a national committee which would have endorsed it for the entry. Sharmeen’s film went through the HBO system, and thank God for that. This is one area where fundamental reform is needed to keep pace with the international community.”
Film actor and director Javaid Shaikh said, “This is the first time that Pakistan has won an Oscar award. It’s a huge achievement.
I think the whole of Pakistan should celebrate it. The government should organise a special event for Sharmeen and give her an award bigger than the Pride of Performance. I think it’s going to have a huge impact on our industry. Now others will try to emulate her. You must’ve heard that prior to the award ceremony people were saying she didn’t stand a chance. But God blessed us. I got goose bumps when they announced her name.”