Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Pakistan’s first Oscar nominee

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 firstPakistani 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.

Dawn News

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