A documentary on the horrors of acid attacks became the first Pakistani production ever awarded an Academy Award in the U.S.
The film in question, “Saving Face,” bestowed on its co-director, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the honor of being the first Pakistani person ever to win an Oscar.
The triumph has been hailed in her native land, with local press showing footage of Obaid-Chinoy receiving her award thousands of miles away in Los Angeles.
Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Obaid-Chinoy will be granted the nation’s highest civil award.
“Saving Face” shows the heroic work of Mohammad Jawad, a British-Pakistani plastic surgeon who treats women who have had their faces and bodies scarred by acid attacks by men. In many cases, the women remain disfigured for life.
The practice of acid violence is believed to be widespread and under-reported in Pakistan.
During her acceptance speech, Obaid-Chinoy said, For all the women in Pakistan working for change, don't give up on your dreams -- this is for you.
She also declared: “It is a story of hope with a powerful message for the Pakistani audience. I felt this would be a great way to show how Pakistanis can help other Pakistanis overcome their problems.”
Last year, the Pakistani government introduced legislation -- the Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill – which calls for those convicted of acid attacks receiving sentences of 14 years in prison up to life, as well as a fine of 1-million Pakistani Rupees (about $11,000).
According to BBC, Marvi Memon, a prominent female Pakistani politician, praised Obaid-Chinoy. When the [acid] bill was passed Sharmeen was there to film it. It was a huge deal for women. The law is already in place but Sindh [province] has been defaulting -- so people may wake up now because of this documentary. I think this issue has come to the forefront.”
Memon added: “We are extremely proud of Sharmeen -- she is hardworking, capable and it is an honor for Pakistan that we have won an Oscar through her. She won and she embodies a beautiful woman of Pakistan -- she is beautiful inside and out.
One acid attack victim told BBC of Obaid-Chinoy's honor: We've been watching TV all morning and I don't have the words to thank Ms Obaid-Chinoy for what she's done. I think it will become easier for women now and it will scare the perpetrators.
According to the Pakistani Tribune newspaper, Pakistani film-maker Adnan Malik commented on Obaid-Chinoy’s award: “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.”
Similarly, filmmaker Hasan Zaidi told the Tribune: “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.”