Thousands continue to praise Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy since the news about Pakistan’s first-ever Oscar, a high point for the country this year, fast spread across television, news and social media. Amid the loud applause and glory for this win, there is a faction of the society, questioning the celebration. There are people who are wondering if Saving Face will ever help the country’s acid victims, oft unreported cases – and whether this Oscar is a real accomplishment at all.
Criticism has been hurled at the government for not truly protecting women against acid attacks, donor community for never speaking to acid victims and the Academy for its notorious voting methods. The award itself has been attacked for being unable to do something for acid victims, the documentary for emphasizing Pakistan’s sad statistics – and above all, acid victims for bringing recognition to Pakistan.
Writer Moni Mohsin tweeted, “I don’t think so Pakistanis would like if Edhi won the Nobel Prize. It will highlight our poverty and violence, and so will be conspiracy against us.”
Clearly, a few of us do not own the Oscar yet. But it is ours now.
The first step to permitting this award to help the cause is to accept the Oscar – and be proud of it. Chinoy has been awarded for content which Pakistanis are yet to see, but we are already aware of the cause and if we are truthfully concerned about whether this will change the lives of acid victims and provide protection, we must be ready to do something on our own or collaboratively. If we are unhappy and shameful of this award and the documentary’s subject, the problem lies therein ourselves and our social media-savvy hunger for driving conspiracy and popularity towards an alternative view – not with the award or Saving Face. So what does this say about those of us who are unable to accept that Pakistan’s problem is its violation of women’s rights?
There is nothing wrong in celebrating this victory for its eventual trickle-down effect, somewhere and somehow. Pakistan is seldom a recipient of international accolade, so let us feel proud and enjoy this feeling of belonging and association with Hollywood – it’s a joy for most of us despite the debate about western representation. As of yet we don’t know whether national television and radio will pick this documentary and give it a face, but let us not be hasty in judging Chinoy and the award on the basis of subject, content, the lives of acid victims, activists who are already working on the issue without praise, and the government’s inability to do anything good for this country.
In 2009, Marvi Memon was inspired by the case of Maria Shah from Shikarpur who died of an acid attack when Aslam Sanjrani threw acid on her because she rejected his marriage proposal, and a bill was passed. It is too early to find out what benefits Saving Face will bring us and what it could inspire, but the award remains a golden achievement for the country.
The glamour associated with Chinoy’s win is slightly frivolous, annoying and ironic, considering the cause, as fame-hungry divas promoted their designer wear and diamond jewelry that the lady was clad in. Who or what she wore by righteous choice is irrelevant to the award and Saving Face, but since it has been such a highlight, it’s amazing how Chinoy chose to wear something which cost enough (perhaps more) to save the life of an acid victim. This is why, at times, we become laughing stock for the world, and Pakistan acquires the reputation of a poor country with rich people.
Never mind the glamour. Let’s own the Oscar, because it’s just not Chinoy’s, but ours as well.