“I have another one!” said Sharmeen as she took the stage to accept the award for a documentary over honor killings in Pakistan.
“This week the Pakistani PM said he would change the law on honor killing after watching this film — that is the power of film!” said Sharmeen on the stage while accepting the award.
Chinoy has been in Los Angeles for the past week in preparation for the Academy Awards. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy made history by winning Pakistan’s first Oscar four years ago.
A Girl in the River
“A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” tells the story of 19-year-old Saba who was beaten, shot and thrown into the river after she ran off to marry her fiance, whom her family initially accepted — and then decided was too poor.
— Sharmeen Obaid (@sharmeenochinoy) February 29, 2016
The 40-minute film goes head to head with four other nominees in the documentary short subject category at Oscars in Hollywood.
Survivors of honor killings are rare and the film offers a stark look at the pain — physical and emotional — inflicted on Saba, her extraordinary resilience and ultimate failure to see her father and uncle convicted.
They beat her, shot her in the face and dumped her in a burlap sack in the river.
At the last moment, she tilted her head, meaning the bullet grazed her cheek instead of shattering her skull. Somehow she managed to cling to the bushes and pull herself out of the water. She went to police and to hospital.
Obaid-Chinoy, who read about her ordeal one morning in the newspaper, tracked her down and filmed Saba’s story over eight to nine months in 2014.
In Pakistan, a loophole in the law allows the perpetrators of so-called honor killings to get off scot-free if they are pardoned by their family.
Saba initially seeks a conviction, but eventually relents under the weight of pressure from her brother-in-law and community elders who say it is better to resolve enmity than let it fester.
Obaid-Chinoy wants to change that. Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif hosted a screening of the film in Islamabad last week and has promised to rid Pakistan of the crime by tightening up the legislation.
The filmmaker told AFP she had hoped for a positive response but admitted such an unprecedented reaction had taken her by surprise.
“If we get this law passed, it will be all worth it,” she said by telephone from Los Angeles after flying in from Pakistan, battling jet lag and an avalanche of pre-Oscar publicity.
“The biggest victory would be to get the legislation passed — to take forgiveness off the table, to have a law that deters killing women in the name of honor and for people to realize that this is a serious crime.”
Obaid-Chinoy has been here before. In 2012, she became an instant celebrity in Pakistan for winning an Oscar for “Saving Face,” a documentary that exposed the horrors endured by women who survive acid attacks.
Her success helped boost awareness about the particularly horrific crime, and the government in Punjab province started processing acid cases through anti-terrorism courts to offer women speedy justice, she said.
Obaid-Chinoy grew up in Karachi and studied in America, but is proud to live in Pakistan, believing the onus is on people like her to help the country improve.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed Pakistan would eradicate “evil” honour killings as he congratulated director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on her Oscar nomination for a harrowing documentary on the practice.
Hundreds of women are murdered by their relatives in Pakistan each year on the grounds of defending family “honour”.
Their male murderers are then “pardoned” by relatives under the country’s controversial Islamic blood money laws that allow murderers to escape punishment.