Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy bring Oscar home for ‘Saving Face’
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy made history on February 27, 2012 when she and Daniel Junge wins an Academy Awards for best documentary short titled “Saving Face”. It is first ever Oscar for Pakistan. Clad in elegant Bunto Kazmi’s designed shalwar kameez, Sharmeen dedicated her award to “all the women in Pakistan working for change.” Pakistan once had a thriving cinema back in 60s and 70s when Karachi, Lahore and Dhaka were the major film production hubs. The decline of the industry begins in 1980s partly due to Islamization of Zia-ul-Haq regime and partly due to VCRs influx. Currently, the commercial cinema is almost dead and the movies that come out each year can be literally counted on fingers.
But over the years, independent film-makes like Sharmeen have started to come out with projects that has had not only managed to pull back some of the audience into movie theaters but have also manage to create quite a stir outside Pakistan. Shoaib Mansoor’s ‘Khuda Kay Liye’ (2007) and ‘Bol’ (2011) have successfully packed houses at home, while Mehreen Jabbar’s ‘Ramchand Pakistani’ (2008) has earned critical acclaim abroad.
The best thing happen to Pakistan cinema is the inception of “Kara Film Festival”. The festival was started by independent film-makes and cinema enthusiast like Hasan Zaidi, Mehreen Jabbar, Maheen Zia and Shabnam Jabbar etc. The festival has grown over years and have build a quite a reputation. Kara has given a platform to independent and amateur filmmakers to showcase their work and provide audience opportunity to watch cinema that is not available in commercial theaters.
But due to absence of any infrastructure, the new breed of filmmakers is not coming. The people like Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Mehreen Jabbar were fortunate enough to be from an auspicious background to peruse filmmaking professionally. But for someone else to take filmmaking as a career in Pakistan is very difficult. The television industry has flourished in last decade and has provided a possible route for budding filmmakers. The directors like Jami, Saqib Malik, and Asim Reza have tried their hand in music videos and produced some of the most outstanding work. But these directors have yet to venture in full scale film. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s Oscar is a big boasts not only to Pakistan cinema but also for people working for change in Pakistan besides its all inherent limitations. The issue of acid victim cannot be better highlighted like this on international arena. Where Pakistan has enacted laws to prevent acid throwing incidents, it is about tine to implement those laws to bring perpetrators to justice and eradicate this heinous crime.
Individual endeavors from people like Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Shoaib Mansoor and Mehreen Jabbar will bring glory to Pakistan’s dying cinema, but major effort from state is required to build an infrastructure to promote filmmaking. The success of movies like ‘Khuda Kay Liye’ and ‘Bol’ have proven that there is audience for good cinema in Pakistan who can appreciate movies other than Bollywood flicks. Many congratulations to Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, Daniel Junge and their team for winning the Academy Award for ‘Saving Face’. Let’s hope government will pay attention to long neglected film sector. There is a dire need to not only form a well-though policy to promote filmmaking in Pakistan but also build a proper infrastructure that can churn out good cinema.
Photo Courtesy by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy & Academy Awards