I don’t know what Sharmeen obaid-chinoy wanted to be when she was a 10-year-old girl growing up in the Karachi, but she ended up as a journalist and bloody good she is at it too – Sam Wollaston, The Guardian, March 2009
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy was born in Karachi Pakistan to Urdu speaking parents, Sheikh Obaid and Saba Obaid, and attended the Karachi Grammar School. Sharmeen graduated from Smith Collegewith a Bachelor of Arts in Economics and Government and from Stanford University with a master’s in International Policy Studies in 2003, and a master’s in Communication in 2004.
Epilogue: Her career in documentary film making began when she examined the plight of Afghan refugee children in Pakistan for an articles. Their situation was so dire, and their stories so compelling, that she decided to return to Pakistan and create a film about them. She petitioned Smith College and New York Times Television production division for the grants that would allow her to accomplish her goals. Intrigued by her story, both organizations gave her the funds as well as production equipment and training.
Known for documentaries dealing with life in the Muslim world, She became the first non-American to win the Livingston Award.She started her career with New York Times Television in 2002 where she produced Terror’s Children, a film about Afghan refugee children, which won her the Overseas Press Club Award, the American Women and Radio and Television Award, and the South Asian Journalist Association Award. Since then, she has produced and reported on more than twelve films around the world. She produced and reported on four multi-award winning documentary films for New York Times Television. In 2003, Reinventing the Taliban was awarded the Special Jury Award at the BANFF TV festival in Canada, the CINE Golden Eagle Award, the American Women in Radio and Television award, and the Livingston Award. In 2005, her film Women of the Holy Kingdom, which provided an inside look at the women’s movement in Saudi Arabia, won the South Asian Journalist Association Award.
She began working with Channel 4 in the United Kingdom reporting on four films for their Unreported World series in 2005. Pakistan’s Double Game looked at sectarian violence in Pakistan, City of Guilt explored the Catholic Church’s pro-life movement in the Philippines, The New Apartheid looked into growing xenophobia in South Africa, and Birth of a Nation delved into the politics of East Timor. In 2007, Sharmeen was named “journalist of the year” by the One World Media awards for her work in the series. Then after she travelled to Afghanistan and reported for Channel 4 and CNN about her film, Afghanistan Unveiled/Lifting the Veil, focuses on stalled reconstruction and the repression of women in the country.
In 2010, she won an Emmy Award for her documentary, Pakistan: Children of the Taliban, which explores Taliban recruitment strategies, their effect on the youth and their methods to radicalize the country’s young and often dejected populace. Children of the Taliban premièred FiLums, the largest film festival in Pakistan held annually at the Lahore University of Management Sciences. On February 26, 2012, Sharmeen became the first Pakistani to win an Oscar for her documentary Saving Face, which chronicles the lives of acid attack survivors in Pakistan, and follows a British-Pakistani plastic surgeon Mr. Mohammad Ali Jawad, who performs re constructive surgeries on them.
The Career Documentaries After returning from the US, Obaid-Chinoy noticed that poverty has forced millions of people to send their children to religious schools, which do not inculcate critical thinking and encourage their students to develop a disdain for Western life and ideals and this made her embark on a dangerous journey to track the roots of Talibanisation, reports imow.com. Obaid-Chinoy produced Terror’s Children with New York Times Television in 2002, and this cross-cultural project got her the Overseas Press Club Award, the American Women and Radio and Television Award and the South Asian Journalist Association Award.
- Reinventing the Taliban
- When Obaid-Chinoy returned to Karachi after graduating from university in the US, she saw the rise of a fundamentalist political party which exerted strict Islamic laws that were gradually eliminating freedom of expression. Reinventing the Taliban followed the documentarian in her travels throughout Pakistan as she exposes inequity and injustice, particularly in regard to women, according to jazba.org. In 2003, Reinventing the Taliban was awarded the Special Jury Award at the BANFF TV festival in Canada, the CINE Golden Eagle Award and the American Women in Radio and Television award.
- Women of the Holy Kingdom
- Women of the Holy Kingdom revolved around the silent oppression women residing in the rigid domain of Saudi Arabia face in their daily lives. In this film, Obaid-Chinoy is seen meeting with young women who embrace the Islamic traditions that so many in the West can’t understand and won’t tolerate. The documentary takes you on an eye-opening journey across the vast deserts of Saudi Arabia to show you places and faces of the Saudi monarchy and patriarchy, according to mazalien.com. In 2005, Women of the Holy Kingdomwon the South Asian Journalist Association Award.
- Pakistan: Children of the Taliban
- Pakistan: Children of the Taliban explores Taliban recruitment strategies, their effect on youth and their methods to radicalise the country’s young and often dejected populace. The project, which revolved around the lives of children who were brainwashed by the Taliban, earned her an Emmy award in 2010, according to media.crlc.com.
- Saving Face
- Saving Face is a documentary that tells the stories of two acid-attack survivors: Zakia and Rukhsana, their attempts to bring their assailants to justice and the charitable work of London-based, Pakistani-born plastic surgeon Dr Mohammad Jawad, who strives to help these women put this horrific act behind them and continue living.
Sharmeen’s Story of Saving Face – The Film: ‘There is a story here, Sharmeen, and it is a remarkable one’. These were the first words that Daniel Junge said to me two years ago, over a static-ridden phone line from Denver. The Oscar-nominated documentary film maker had recently spoken with Dr. Mohammad Jawad, a Pakistani-British plastic surgeon who regularly visits Pakistan to perform reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid violence, the horrific practice of throwing disfiguring chemicals onto the faces of women. Over the past several years, more than 150 cases of acid violence have been reported annually in the country where I grew up and where I have made a number of my films.
Most survivors do not have the resources to seek treatment for their burns. Daniel was in the process of producing a film that would celebrate Dr. Jawad’s efforts, and he was inviting me to direct it with him. The moment I hung up on my end of the line in Karachi, I dived into the project.
As a Pakistani-Canadian, I also live about a third of the year in Toronto I was certainly aware of acid violence. Acid attacks have been going on in countries as varied as Cambodia, Thailand, Bangladesh, India and Afghanistan for a decade now. They first appeared in Pakistan about five years ago. Most attacks take place in rural areas, where rates of unemployment and illiteracy are high, acid (used to wash cotton) is widely available, and misogyny is rampant. Being based myself in Karachi, far from the agrarian Saraiki region in the province of Punjab, where most attacks occur, I had spent no time with survivors, nor had I worked with organizations that support them.
As our team delved into research and production, our findings shocked me. Most cases of acid violence are motivated by the concept of shame. Scorned lovers, rejected marriage suitors and abusive husbands attack women with the bald intention to dishonour, control and hurt them.
During our work, we came to know about the Acid Survivors Foundation (ASF), an organization that rehabilitates victims by providing free medical treatment and counselling. ASF guided us through the Saraiki region, and introduced us to survivors and their families. Many of the victims were young and unmarried; all faced tenuous futures. Married women were often compelled to remain with the very husbands who had disfigured them they simply didn’t have the resources to support their children independently.
It was difficult to reconcile the lives of these women with my own reality, and to come to terms with the fact that such acts occurred in a country I call home. The anger and frustration that I felt only strengthened my resolve to produce a film that could combat such narratives with an alternative one – one that would focus on the individuals who dedicated their lives to ridding Pakistan of what Dr. Jawad aptly calls “a disease.”
Saving Face also became the story of two extraordinary survivors: Zakia and Rukhsana. At the time of shooting, Zakia a mother of three, and the wife of an alcoholic, drug-addicted gambler named Pervez, who had hurled acid onto her face in broad daylight and in front of several witnesses – was in the midst of fighting him in court. She was represented by Sarkar Abass, an eminent lawyer who had taken her case pro bono.
Rukhsana, the mother of two small children, lived in a village in southern Punjab. While asleep, she had been doused with petrol and acid by her husband and mother-in-law, who then set her on fire and locked her in a room. When I met Rukhsana’s husband, he protested his innocence, and insisted that 99 per cent of victims had burned themselves and were simply passing the blame to their husbands.
Academy Recognition On February 26, 2012, Obaid became the first Pakistani to win an Oscar for her documentary Saving Face, which chronicles the lives of acid attack survivors in Pakistan, and follows a British-Pakistani plastic surgeon Mr. Mohammad Ali Jawad, who performs reconstructive surgeries on them. The film has been co-directed by American filmmaker Daniel Junge