As Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy raises the slim human figured Oscar award in the air, a nation glows with pride over her achievement of becoming the first Pakistani to win the coveted award.
“I want to dedicate this award to all the heroes working on the ground in Pakistan and to all the women in the country who are working for a change. Do not give up as this is your dream,” she said in her speech.
At seven in the morning, right after the award ceremony went on air, the blogosphere lit up with tweets and Facebook status updates. While most were encouraging, others were a little more skeptical. Progressive Pakistanis or not, some questioned whether this was a woman’s journey to excellence or just another ploy to defame the country’s image.
Hasan Zaidi, filmmaker and the brain behind the Kara Film Festival, commends the achievement and believes this will “inspire young Pakistani filmmakers.” However, he maintains that “inspiration alone will not win many more Oscars”.
“The fact that Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy had a co-director who had networks in the international market helped a great deal. Many excellent documentaries made locally do not reach the international market because of lack of access.”
Musarrat Misbah, founder of the Smile Again Foundation which raises fund for reconstructive surgeries on burn victims and employs them at its beauty salon, believes that the Oscar will be a great boost for the cause.
“In a country like Pakistan, unfortunately, an issue does not become big enough unless it goes international.” However, she admits that there are two sides of the coin. “What sort of support will the cause get? Will the awareness created by the documentary sensitise the masses or will they remain as indifferent as before? That is the real issue.”
Back at the Burns Ward of the Civil Hospital, Director Dabir-ur-Rahman remains slightly bitter. “Our department deals with the most burns cases in Pakistan. We even take in 100 percent burns victims and deal with the severest cases. No other institute does that, but we were never mentioned in the film.”
For him no documentary on the subject would be complete without a mention of the CHK’s Burns Ward. “It is indeed a proud moment for the country, but without visiting the burns ward, ground realities could be ignored.”
Erum, a 19-year-old acid burns victim is recovering from a second reconstructive surgery on her arm, a 25 percent burns case. “I heard about that woman today. What is an Oscar?” she asked.
On an explanation about the plot of the documentary, she exclaims, “My assailant is still free. His (the assailant) brother claims people who have committed 10 murders roam around freely in this country. What will a mere movie do?”
Saving Face, the Oscar-winning documentary, is the story of two women and a British Pakistani doctor who flies to Pakistan and performs reconstructive surgeries on female acid burns victim free of cost.