Pakistan’s First Oscar Nomination


Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy

It came as a surprise to me when I read this Dawn article yesterday talking about Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, journalist and documentarian, becoming the first ever Pakistani film maker to earn an Oscar nomination with her film ‘Saving Face’. Having gotten used to the clichéd and extremely average movies coming out of our very own beloved ‘Lollywood’, it got me curious.

Since I had heard of her name before but not followed her work closely, this news got me interested and I started to do my research. According to the Oscars’ website the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences has nominated ‘Saving Face’, a documentary directed by Pakistani investigative filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Daniel Junge, for an Oscar in the Best Documentary (Short Subject) category.

An in-depth interview with Sharmeen Obiad Chinoy shows that she is a conscientious member of the society who works with refugees, women’s and rights groups. Most of her work features on children and their struggles, especially in places of conflict. She received an Emmy Award for her film ‘Pakistan’s Taliban Generation’. It was the first of its kind movie that focused on how children were being recruited by Taliban back in 2008. She also addressed the issue of how those children had no idea what was going on in the world and had no access to radio, television, or newspapers. With an extensive background in journalism, Sharmeen Chinoy also studied on countering extremist ideologies and explained the link between religious parties and extremist groups in her movie.

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy has not limited her movie-making portfolio to just Pakistan but has made movies in the continents of Europe Africa and North America also. She has roughly 16 movies under her belt and has received numerous awards from all over the world for her work. She is renowned for producing deeply moving character focused content, and always addresses cultural and political inequality in the system. Paul Haggart in his article in The Guardian says:

“Five of Obaid-Chinoy’s films concern her native Pakistan, but she has also made documentaries about women in Saudi Arabia, Native American women in Canada, illegal abortions in the Philippines, Muslims in Sweden and the ill-treatment of Zimbabwean migrants in South Africa. Her portfolio is a global tour of gender oppression and social injustice”.

Shirmeen Chinoy also refuses to let the taboo image of Muslim women in a society stop her. She is very vocal about religious freedom and education for women in Islam. She says:

“Where in the Qur’an does it say a woman must cover her face? I’ve read it front to back and I can’t find it”.

Having interacted with and studied various religious organizations, she is also very vocal about radical Islamization that is slowly up in our society:

“I find the political manipulation of Islam to be very troubling. We can’t have a them-and-us attitude. We are part of this planet and we share it with the rest of humanity”.

According to Daily Times her movie ‘Saving Face’ is a story about women struggling for justice and the movie shows their ‘resilience and unwavering strength‘. Daily Times also reports that this observational documentary was filmed entirely in Pakistan, primarily in the Saraiki belt in addition to Rawalpindi, Karachi and Islamabad. The movie is set to air on America’s premier television cable network HBO, on March 8, 2012.


Author: Mukhtar Ahmed