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The heartbreaking tale of acid violence in Pakistan and the women victimized by the heinous practice won the category of Best Documentary (Short Subject) at this years Academy Awards, celebrated at the Hollywood and Highland Center last night.
Directors Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Daniel Junge followed the work of Dr. Mohammad Jawad in his native Pakistan where he performed reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid attacks. The film explores the problem as the women struggle for justice and the return of a dignified life.
Daniel Junge took the word at first by saying “it’s more important that the Pakistani on the stage speak instead of me” to which Obaid-Chinoy responded:
Daniel and I want to dedicate this award to all the heroes working on the ground in Pakistan including Dr. Mohammad Jawad who’s here with us today, the plastic surgeon working on rehabilitating all these women, Rukhsana and Zakia who are our main subjects of the film whose resilience and bravery in the face of such adversity is admirable, and to all the women in Pakistan who are working for change, don’t give up on your dreams. This is for you.
The brief but beautiful speech was met by applause and the Oscar press corps welcomed the shaky, but thrilled winners afterwards.
A. (Daniel Junge) This is only a third less nerve racking than being up there. But still all the same. I think it’s important to note that this is the first Pakistani director nominated and now winning an Academy Award, which is really worth yeah, applaud. Thank you.
Q. Sharmeen, in an interview with Voice of America, you said that winning an Oscar was never a destination, it was never a goal in front of you. What does Oscar mean for you?
A. (Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy) Well, I think that it reinforces the fact today that you can be anyone and come from anywhere, but if you put quality work out there, that it will be judged on just that; the work that you put out there. And I think that some of the choices that the Academy’s made today an Irani film has won, a Pakistani film has won shows that, yes, the Academy does value good work that’s put out across the world, not just in North America.
Q. What would you like for Americans to know about Pakistan that we probably don’t know?
A. (Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy) That it’s possible that women like myself are born and raised there, emancipated, educated women, who return back to Pakistan to give back to that country. I lived in the United States for ten years. I went to college here and worked here, and I chose to go back because people like myself need to go back to create change in Pakistan.
Q. When you look back at the challenges that you have to go through while making this movie and, obviously, you overcame them, how do you feel about that now that you’ve won the Oscar?
A. (Daniel Junge) Any and all films are challenging, especially for we documentary filmmakers and even more so when you are documenting such dark, difficult subject matter. But I think that the fact that we were able to find redemption within the film and the fact that such that inklings that a hint of change happened while we were in the film is really as valuable as this, but not quite.
Q. Being the first filmmaker from Pakistan to win, can you tell us what kind of film industry you have in Pakistan? Is it thriving or is it also affected by the worldwide trend?
A. (Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy) In the fifties and sixties we had a vibrant film industry. Unfortunately, after that, it sort of died down. And now my generation, there are a number of filmmakers, we are trying to revive that, but it’s few and far between. And I hope that this will be an impetus to getting a more flourishing film industry in Pakistan.
Image Courtesy of Matt Brown / ©A.M.P.A.S.