And the Oscar went to Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Daniel Junge for their co-directed documentary Saving Face. I was watching the Oscars live in anticipation for this and the moment they said ‘Saving Face’ I literally punched the air very much in the same manner as I would in a Pakistan India cricket match. It was a wonderful feeling to see Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy get this achievement. The nomination alone was great but then winning it was like wow. And this same feeling was across the board for most Pakistanis at home who were rooting for her to win. The outflow of congratulations and positive messages for the team of Saving Face after the Oscars was brilliant to see. Facebook/Twitter and other social media platforms were just bursting with news about them. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy was trending on twitter.
Now amongst the plethora of good wishes there were also a few critics. The major concern was ‘Why couldn’t she make a documentary about the good things about our country?’ or ‘Why did she make this movie which will make people think Pakistan is a horrible country?’. First of all she made a documentary on how victims of Acid attacks can survive. The documentary is for the survivors of this heinous and horrible attack. The documentary for me is a message that good still exists and that we need to be strong enough to rise through all the bad. For the population living in urban centres of Pakistan I think the message should be that this happens and instead of sitting on the side and maybe discussing it once in a while in our drawing rooms we can do something to help the cause. A short brief for the documentary on IMDB says:
Every year hundreds of people — mostly women — are attacked with acid in Pakistan. SAVING FACE follows several of these survivors, their fight for justice, and a Pakistani plastic surgeon who has returned to his homeland to help them restore their faces and their lives
I think this is a wonderful achievement and which should be seen as the following:
Bad things happen all over the world. Some places and some events are more severe and more heinous then others but that doesn’t mean that we simply choose to ignore it to ensure that our ‘image’ in the world is preserved. And that we give up thinking nothing can be done about it under the label of hopelessness. We have to be stronger in our commitment and desire to help. The story of Saving Face for me is of Survival and Courage. It is the story of those survivors being helped by a Pakistani Doctor who returned to his homeland to work for this cause. To help these women. To give them a sense of not being left to their fate and for their fight for justice.
To say that one should make positive documentaries is not a unreasonable concern. I think there needs to be balance. I think more so than the world our own people especially the urban centres need to be aware more in detail with the issues of the country and at the same time need to be shown the positives and the good things about our country. I think Saving Face is one example where winning the Oscar is the positive and the documentary itself highlights a serious issue but also the story of how victims survived and someone did stand up and help.
I think that’s the message we need to take from Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s effort. Acid Attacks can disfigure around 200 women every year. There is a organization which is working towards helping and rehabilitating the victims of acid attacks, Acid Survivors Pakistan. I didn’t know all this. I mean I knew there were acid attacks and it was a problem. But I didn’t know the extent of it. I didn’t know there was an organization set up for the victims. I looked up their website and found out they are working with the UN and other partners. And that I can help as well in the very least in the form of a donation.
So while we celebrate the Oscar win let us not forget the cause for which this documentary was made. And let us not focus on why make this kind of documentary or that kind of documentary. Let us do something about this issue. Let’s try to increase awareness of this issue on our part as well and do whatever we can in our individual capacity to help. We can visit www.savingfacefilm.com and also http://acidsurvivorspakistan.org/ to find out more.
To quote Daniel Junge, the co-director for Saving Face:
The film must be more than an expose of horrendous crimes, it must be a recipe for addressing the problem and a hope for the future