Pakistanis celebrated on Monday after a filmmaker from Karachi won the country’s first Academy Award, for a documentary about the victims of gruesome acid attacks
The filmmaker, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, and the co-director, Daniel Junge, won the Oscar in Los Angeles on Sunday night for the best short documentary for their film, “Saving Face,” which follows a British plastic surgeon as he repairs the horrific damage done to women who have been attacked with acid, often by jealous or vindictive husbands.
Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani led the tributes to Ms. Obaid-Chinoy, 33, saying that she would be given a “high civil award” for her achievement.
It was the second big victory for a film produced in the region. The award for best foreign-language film went to the Iranian movie “A Separation,” also a first for a country that is often at odds with the West.
Speaking by telephone from Hollywood, Ms. Obaid-Chinoy said that she was “dazed” by her success. “It reinforces the fact you can be anyone, come from anywhere and as long as you do quality work it gets rewarded,” she said.
She said she was congratulated backstage at the awards ceremony by Angelina Jolie, who has frequently traveled to Pakistan to highlight the plight of refugees and the poor.
“Saving Face” focuses on the efforts of Dr. Mohammad Jawad, a British plastic surgeon who traveled across Pakistan to repair the faces of women who had been burned by acid.
In one scene, a weeping patient tells him that she was attacked by a husband who threw battery acid on her, a sister-in-law who doused her with gasoline and a mother-in-law who struck the match that set her on fire. “I cannot understand this,” says Dr. Jawad, himself straining with tears. About 100 such attacks are reported to the police every year, the filmmakers said, although many more go unreported.
But Ms. Obaid-Chinoy emphasized that the film also focuses on courageous lawyers and legislators who introduced a strict law last year that mandates a sentence of life in prison for those convicted of committing acid attacks.
“This is a film about hope,” she said. “It shows that Pakistan has a problem, but that there are people on the ground who are tackling it.”
Ms. Obaid-Chinoy, who previously won an Emmy for a documentary about young Pakistani recruits to the Taliban, began her career in 2002 with New York Times Television, where she produced an award-winning documentary about the children of Afghan refugees. She said that she hoped her Oscar would inspire other Pakistani filmmakers. “This shows that someone from their ranks can do it,” she said.
Neither the Iranian nor the Pakistani film celebrated at the Academy Awards was entirely shorn of political context. In his acceptance speech, Asghar Farhadi, the Iranian writer and director of “A Separation,” referred to mounting speculation that Israel was preparing to attack Iran’s nuclear complexes.
“At a time of talk of war, intimidation and aggression,” he said, Iran had spoken though a “glorious culture, a rich and ancient culture that has been hidden under the heavy dust of politics.”
In Pakistan, the Oscar victory coincided with concern that the government was planning to restrict free speech through stringent new regulation of the vibrant electronic media, including a ban on television satires of politicians.
At a news conference in Islamabad, Information Minister Firdous Ashiq Awan sought to dispel the concerns. No regulation would be imposed without first consulting the television stations, she said.
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