First Pakistani on the Oscar Stage

With a roar of applause Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy arrived on the Oscar stage, her beautiful shalwar/kameez glittering under the lights. She took the Oscar for the Best Documentary (Short Subject) for a film that tells the story of Dr. Muhammad Jawad, a British-Pakistani plastic surgeon who works to restore physical and emotional health of Pakistani women burned in acid attacks.

The award was given just before 11pm, a time when my eyes usually grow heavy and I wonder if it’s worth while to watch until the end. My second wind came in the form of great pride as the film maker, a Pakistani woman, raised her Oscar on the stage, thanking the Academy and giving a tribute to Pakistani women everywhere, most who would not be watching, but a tribute nevertheless.  Her talent, along with the skill and passion of the doctor who cared enough to make this a real story, not just an idea, were enough to wake me up as I clapped towards the screen.

The film is called “Saving Face” and tells the personal stories of two Punjabi women, the true heroes of the night, Zakia and Rukhsana.  These women survived acid attacks that burned and disfigured their faces. Their heroism is not only about surviving the burns, but that they used this event to fight for the rights of Pakistani women, to fight for justice.

All of these people – the lovely and talented film maker who told the story, not just of the attacks but of resilience, of physical and emotional healing; the physician who used skill and compassion, traveling to Pakistan and bringing along teams to work with him; and the women – brave women who would not let their pain paralyze them; all of these are heroes.

I feel so proud. I have no right to, I have only been a guest in Pakistan, I am not Pakistani, but I feel proud of this accomplishment. Proud as a sort of adopted cousin, maybe even daughter, of Pakistan.  Proud that in the world of film this story has risen to the top. It has been deemed Oscar-worthy and so will receive the attention that it has deserved all along.

So my heart is full. And as the 84th Oscars end, this award will forever be archived in Oscar history and Pakistan has had a chance to shine in a wonderful way.

Pakistan Zindabad!

15 thoughts on “First Pakistani on the Oscar Stage

  1. I asked my moment at that moment: “How can we ever see this film?” I hope it will be widely available for rent or download. I assume it won’t make it to large theaters, right?

    And you are right: Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy looked stunning in her outfit. So lovely.

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  2. Have you seen the film “The Road Home” by Rahul Gandotra? It is a TCK film – written about an Indian boy, raised in England, sent to Murree School in the Himalayas and his journey to find the road home – back to England. You can see a short trailer of the film at: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WMNhuTK3D2c

    You can also find Rahul’s page on Facebook – and connect there as well!

    Margie

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    1. Hi Margie – thanks so much for directing me to Rahul’s page. The film looks so poignant. It looks like it’s about Woodstock School in India, the school that our school in Pakistan was modeled after (except with some good changes, like not so many kids to one boarding parent….!)
      That ending line of the trailer “But I don’t feel Indian inside….” Most of us could substitute that with our passport countries….Thanks so much again

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      1. I agree with Margie – The Road Home is incredibly poignant (and also very funny in many places).

        Just an update: You can see the film for free now. The director posted it on his website a couple months ago because he’s trying to build an audience for the feature version he’s hoping to shoot next year.

        To watch it, go to the Home page of his website: http://www.roadhomefilm.com. Enter your email address where it says “Watch for Free.”

        By entering your email you’ll also get onto Rahul’s mailing list, and he sends out cool stuff every month or two – most recently, an MP3 of an interview he did for a series on TCKs. (You can unsubscribe if you don’t want to get emails, but so far I’ve been really pleased with the things he’s sent. It’s like getting little TCK-themed digital gifts each month).

        By the way, the DVD is totally worth buying (so many extra things on it), but now you can watch the film for free first, then share it with others without having to buy it for all of them!

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      2. Thanks Heidi – I’ll post this on the Communicating Across Boundaries Facebook page as I’m guessing many others will be interested and don’t know that it is available to watch for free. So glad you came by.

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    1. Ahhh! Love this. I was remembering that last year at the time of the Oscars we had just met through the blog. It’s an anniversary of sorts for us. It was a proud moment and for it to be a woman just made in even better. So sorry you missed. There were some good moments, genuine excitement, reigned in cynicism, you would have loved those.

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  3. Marilyn, this is the only time I’ve ever stayed awake for the Oscars. How glad I am that I watched when this beautiful Pakistani woman walked up to receive an Oscar. She is a woman of courage.

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  4. I am a firm supported of the Oscar nomiated short film category (live action, animation, and documentary), and it saddens me that I was unable to watch the short documentaries before they were nominated. Usually the Ritz theatre in Philadelphia shows the live action and animated shorts each year, but despite my requests, they have refused to show the short documentaries. I applaud Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on her accomplishment as a filmmaker and an artist from Pakistan, and hope to view her short film very soon.

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    1. thanks so much for reading and for this comment. Keep on requesting that they show these documentaries and hopefully you will wear them down. I agree with you – they tell such important stories – stories that are often missing from the world stage other than soundbites from the news. Are you in the industry? My son is in film in the Chicago area, and my daughter-in-law acts. Thanks again for coming by.

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      1. I just graduated with a film degree, and am currently working on an internship before I apply to grad school for producing this fall. I have a small independent production company that I run with my friend, and we work on various short films and put them into festivals (good for both of our applications into grad school). I was actually born in Chicago, I haven’t been back in five years or so. I’ve heard good things about the film schools there, my friend actually just transferred to the Art Institute of Chicago film program.

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