Saving Face: An Oscar for mediocrity?

Published: May 3, 2012

It's not just about losing your looks as the film often seems to signify. Acid also causes deep physiological and debilitating changes that are painful on a continual basis. PHOTO: SCREEN SHOT

In February, when Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s Film, Saving Face, on acid burn victims won an Oscar, I was sceptical. Accolade seemed to focus on how great it was for Pakistan to have this honour – and whenever people get jingoistic, you know that the core may be hollow.  

Frankly, there are two reasons why the film won the Oscar: excellent public relations work, and choice of topic that fits the western narrative of acceptable ways to talk about Muslim women – as victims of patriarchal religious violence without any emphasis on the larger socio-economic context in which this violence ensues and whether there are any viable solutions.

Now that I have seen the film, there is certainly a lot to critique. From an objective standpoint, I am simply bewildered as to how mediocre filming and static story telling like this could win a prize. An “A” for a sophomore year Film Studies class, yes. Oscar, no. But then that is perhaps the nature of the Oscars when it comes to films about third world women – and specially when it comes to recounting in a manner that indirectly legitimises war, terror, and intervention by western powers. A film about drone victims would not gain traction.

The narrative also reinforces stereotypes about vigilante justice and charity as solution. Women’s disempowerment is not countered through documentation of sustained organising, but reinforced as they are spoken for by lawyers, select NGO (non-governmental organisation) workers, and parliamentarians; rich doctors are presented as humorous, patronising saviours, and even if the disparaging voice over is missing - there is no distinct, coherent message about women’s empowerment or agency. Rather, it’s opportunistic footage about a very important topic.

The focus on the doctor as a saviour is perplexing and contradictory. In the first few minutes of the film, we are shown a billboard with the face of a fair skinned, young woman advertising beauty services – which makes you think the film questions the beauty myth. Seconds later, the doctor, in his cocky manner, talks of his work – he “makes them bigger, makes them smaller.”

What then is the political narrative? From a feminist perspective, acid throwing is a particularly cruel form of punishment  because it destroys a woman’s face in a culture where her worth is measured by beauty and youth.

Yet, the  protagonist and purported hero of the documentary reinforces this myth in its most narcissistic and decadent form. Dr Jawad is a cosmetic surgeon who milks women’s insecurities about their looks by subjecting the richest to the scalpel – perking up breasts, tucking tummies, fixing features. His canvas is the woman who believes she is defective because of society’s emphasis on her perfection. What better canvas than this  - altruism combined with a Swadesh type homecoming – and women who actually need the surgery and are dependent on (and in fact lucky for receiving) his charity. How perfectly rewarding to be filmed for it as well.

I once met a Bangladeshi woman in a New York courtroom. She wore a plastic mask on her face because her acid burnt skin lost moisture so rapidly. It’s of course not just about losing your looks as the film often seems to signify. Acid also causes deep physiological and debilitating changes that are painful on a continual basis.

The depictions are borderline derogatory. Even if the women are speaking about their ordeal – one can not escape how discomfiting it must have been for them in some of the scenes. The doctor asks Zakia (one of the victims) with forced compassion how it happened while she is on the bed looking diminutive. He towers over her. She is the recipient of charity; he, the benevolent giver with little emotional stake in the transaction evident before the surgery when he declares:

 I am having a party

She is made to expose her face, and even if  the filmer thinks, throughout the film, this is an act of agency and defiance for someone who has masked it out of shame, it comes across as a meek act of a woman who wants the doctor to make it all go away by doing as she is asked.

Even if she has signed a consent form, are the doctors and film-makers oblivious to the lack of ethics and voyeurism implicit in the shot? Is she not entitled to privacy for which the case is heightened in a cosmetic surgery like this? We are privy to a private moment.

During the surgery, while she lies inanimate and unconscious, a discussion ensues about how her eyeball can not be retrieved as it has been too long.  After the surgery the patient asks the doctor – what about my nose? As he walks away he says:

I will see you in a few months.

Let’s see how the lips work out.

It appears as the most undignified moment for her. And that in a nutshell is a metaphor for charity. Leave the larger and systemic problems for later. The poor should grovel and be thankful; the rich should do charity and be thanked.

Also, in a few minutes, she has been reduced to eyes, nose, lips – oddly reminiscent of what some feminists say is media’s objectification of women through dismemberment of and undue focus on their individual body parts.

Later, an acid victim is shown during her ultrasound. The doctor tells her she is pregnant. As she processes the bitter-sweet news, we are again watching closely. She realises she can not be a candidate for surgery. In a country where most women do not have access to birth control and avail unsafe abortion methods, is a woman who has just lost her chance at a free surgery to rejoice that she is pregnant?

Lamenting the pregnancy would make her appear selfish. Such emotional complexity is perhaps not what the film can begin to tackle with empathy. Almost accusingly, the doctor asks, didn’t you use birth control, don’t you wonder if something like this could happen to your child, and quite aptly, albeit in a contrived fashion, she prays for a son.

With non-empathetic, but pity inducing representation, I am surprised any acid survivors chose to be the subjects of this film.  It is perhaps testimony to a different type of desperation in their struggle – that they become subjects and are objectified – for the satisfaction of the doctor, the film-maker, the voyeur and the cheerleader from the fringes.

Showing the legislative and legal efforts is perhaps an effort by the film maker to place the victims as not merely victims, but survivors who continue their struggle. What then is perturbing is that the discourse around it is trivialised, simplified and superficial. The lawyer hopes that the perpetrator is locked up in a “cage like an animal”.

NGO workers, despite an intervention by one woman against the death penalty, declare their desire for vigilante justice. They dramatically ask for acid throwers to be sentenced to death, and given a taste of their own medicine. However, what about people in our legal system working for reformatory and rehabilitative justice? Surely, the legislative, legal, social, and political complexities we are dealing with are more than this – as are the diversity of opinion on punishments and solutions.

Are we to be satisfied with happy endings? Even Hollywood films have more gray than this. A double life sentence for the offender.Vague reference to good legislative reform. A prosthetic eye for Zakia. As the offender spends his life behind bars, the victim walks through bazaars in a pointedly red dupatta (scarf).

Surely, if acid victims and women’s groups against violence were organised and represented more accurately in the film, the discussion around it would be more nuanced, more empowering, and more focused on people and their struggles rather than filmmakers, the doctors, the prophets and the Oscar winners – clichéd moments of reckoning and unpoetic justice.

Nero’s Guests is a film about farmer suicides in India. Even if rural journalist P. Sainath is valorised for his writing about the issue, at the end of the film you have a much deeper understanding of the economic, political, and global context of the suicides.

However, in Saving Face, the film and the filmmaker offers little history and analysis – because this is the kind of mediocrity we are famous for.

This post originally appeared here

Read more by Abira here and follow her on Twitter @oil_is_opium                                                                                                                                           

Do you think the documentary Saving Face deserved an Oscar?

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Abira Ashfaq

Abira Ashfaq

A law teacher in Karachi who works with human rights organisations. She tweets @oil_is_opium.

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • M Ali Khan

    While I appreciate Saving Face winning an Oscar and highlighting the issues faced by some women in Pakistan. I also share the skepticism of the author here about how this documentary is being used as a media tool for Western intervention here.Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/944/sabeer-lodhi/ Sabeer Lodhi

    Spot on!Recommend

  • Parvez

    If Obama can get the Nobel prize for peace ( phew !! ) then Sharmeen can get the Oscar for Saving Face.
    You have spent much time and energy dissecting the movie, almost making it personal. You could have used the same effort to try and diagnose in depth the reasons why the jury chose a mediocre film to honour.
    Sharmeen is one of us and she won – is that not reason enough to be happy ?
    Recommend

  • Super-Fool KaalCopterTanoli

    No. There is not some hidden special motive of the West. The Oscars, if anything, was doing it for its own image and attention. Pakistan flatters itself.

    Oscar requirements for that award:
    It was made by an amateur or virtually unknown person
    It’s something out of the ordinary and will attract attention
    It makes them look good (false hollywood bleeding hearts)

    Pakistan has given plenty of reasons for negativity. That video, if anything, matched current events enough that it also contributed to it winning. A popular topic is better than an obscure one when it comes to publicity and publicity is what they feed off of. It wasn’t some revelation. Celebrities constantly take advantage of negative world situations for publicity.

    You guys really need to tone down the ego as if the world is conspiring against you with every mentioning of your name. Fact of the matter is, you commit some of the most disgusting atrocities known to man and still call yourselves peaceful. Drones are nothing in comparison. All the West would have to do to accomplish the same result is print a screenshot of a Pakistani newspaper’s site on any given day.Recommend

  • AhmedMaqsood

    M Ali Khan – Oh God, this is not about Western intervention, more about white guilt and patronization and casting others in a familiar light – this is done by societies to the “other” all the time – e.g. characterizing the West as a immoral monolith bent on exercising cultural and military hegemony in the world, as you just did.Recommend

  • Tina Omari

    Reading this article made me realise that I was not alone in feeling the way I felt after watching ‘Saving Face’. I am all for highlighting the subject internationally because maybe, just maybe, it might shame the perpetrators, be they inlaws or just the husband. Putting the mediocrity of the finished product aside, my main objections were:
    The doctor blowing his own trumpet about what a great doctor he was and how he specialised in enhancing various parts of a woman’s anatomy. Totally unnecessary and insentitive.
    Secondly, the scene of the doctor giving the patient a hug, right after the scene in which both the father-in-law and husband have accused her of being ‘wanton and bud-challan’. Surely the doctor knows the cultural taboos of our country and especially of the conservative class, he was born and brought up in this society; and surely the director knows that a scene like that would only reinforce the accusation in the victim’s part of the world.
    When I aired my views to a few fans of the documentary, they said it was made for the western market and a jocular huggy wuggy doctor was quite the norm.
    Lastly, its a pity no mention was made of the Smile Again Foundation, which had actually highlighted this problem some years back and in collaboration with the Italian govt, was providing relief to acid victims. I know this for a fact because an American woman in my neighbourhood in Connecticut had raised funds for it.Recommend

  • Saira Shah

    Do something proactive instead of dissecting other people’s work man.Recommend

  • Ahmed

    Spot on. What do you expect from the bourgeois of this country. It is just another means for them to rub shoulders with their white gods and feel good about themselves with no stake whatsoever. Not that they will ever raise politically or socially hard questions. For them, status qou, with a bit of charity thrown in, is the perfect world. I immediately realized how genuine the concern of the director was, when she tweeted, kind of cheering up throwing acid on a man, as if it is a gender war. How pathetic. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    That rant against cosmetic surgery was wholly unnecessary.

    A woman has a choice to stay the way she is, and she has the choice to alter her appearance – neither decision should invoke judgement from you.

    While it is unimaginably cruel to discriminate against or harass an acid victim for her looks, it is unreasonable to expect the society’s perception of beauty to change. Sorry, but you can’t yell at the society “How dare you find scorched faces ugly!”. That’s just the way it is, and that’s how it will likely remain.

    These victims, being part of that society, might share the same perceptions. Every decision that a woman makes is quickly attacked by certain feminists as being made due to parental pressure, or societal threats…they don’t even stop to consider that it might be something the woman herself wants to do!Recommend

  • http://www.facebook.com/#!/pages/Jahanzaib-Haque/149352001744540?ref=ts Jahanzaib Haque

    This was a good read. Now I need to watch the documentary.

    Recommend

  • Asad Shairani

    I was among the people who were elated with Sharmeen’s win. However, after watching the documentary, I am disappointed. Although the topic is very valid and one in need of more attention – the film, as you say, is very average. An Oscar winner, I’m not so sure. Recommend

  • Giving up

    I still can’t believe people are so upset about this film winning the oscar. We all agree that it’s a good cause to highlight? There are things being done to help rectify this issue since the oscar win? Yes and Yes.
    The above two reasons alone are good enough to qualify Sharmeen’s film for an Oscar. The rest of it is just bullsh*^ to be swept under the carpet, blogged about and whined about on FB/Twitter.
    Shut up and do something before you berate someone else for doing so.
    Sitting in your comfy office chair, AC on, sipping your mineral water/coffee/tea it’s easy for you to say what you have… but try going out there and doing what she did and then you may have the right to judge.
    An opinion, no matter how mislead, you are welcome to have – but you should not have the right, or the platform to promote it. Recommend

  • http://think-islam.blogspot.com PostMan

    Pardon me. When are you going to make a movie and get another Oscar for us Pakistanis? You already know it requires a sophomore effort video wise, topic can be anyone on Pakistani women being exploited, get someone who is rich and can do charity work and voila! Make us proud Abira.Recommend

  • http://- Abid P Khan

    Agreed, that the over quality of Pakistani products is in dire need of improvement.

    On the other hand you seem to be owning a very dull axe.Recommend

  • mohammed ali jawaid

    cynicism in this article is understandable. the kind of polarized society we have this is the obvious result. today our public, majority of it is illiterate, is fighting for its own survival and the remaining so called literate, the chattering class, has become cynic. they are born to see the half glass as empty. among the many unpleasant occurrences in the country every day, these pseudo intellectuals have to find fault in even the smallest of pleasantry coming its way! I think that a good cause, a documentary based on it, winning an Oscar, the highest film award, and a victorious Pakistani, and that too a woman, makes it worthy of celebration instead of criticism such as this! Recommend

  • Haq

    I agree completely with your analysis of the film. I too was left desiring more and there were many opportunities when the filmmakers could have delivered more and they didn’t. The artificial nature of dialogue made it seem very scripted to me but that’s a detail easy to miss by a non-Urdu speaking audience.
    If it makes aspiring filmmakers feel better, this film hasn’t acknowledged directly in the credits but it was funded by US government and that is partly why it received such fantastic PR. Filmmaking doesn’t have much to do with it.Recommend

  • http://www.insaf.pk Antebellum

    The Author Abira Ashfaq: You are spot-on!Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    That was an awful writeup. It isn’t that I disagree with you, but you seem to be projecting your own stuff here. The doctor isn’t presented as some ‘hero’. The film is about the victims. Strange bit of over analysis. Watch a few other short subject documentaries first, I’d recommend, to get a better idea of something to compare to. Saving Face is meant to be a quick powerful jab. Recommend

  • Kashif Khan

    Pakistan is a country with so many Oscar critiques and one oscar winner! I think the winner walks away with the prize and the rest of you, oh well sour grapes…Recommend

  • Ann Fruntoch (critic)

    Pakistanis forget that DANIEL JUNGE was already working on “Saving Face”, the documentary was his idea, his work. Sharmeen joined in half-way. Either way, the documentary is disappointing and Sharmeen is known to have THE BEST publicists and PR. Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    The article is rife with factual and logical errors, but the reasons most people here are attacking her for are outrageous.

    Abira has an opinion, and she’s allowed to express that. She’s criticizing the way the film was directed, she is not against the idea of raising awareness for vitriolage victims. So all those who accuse her of berating the doers while doing nothing herself, have no idea what they’re talking about.

    That’s like me saying that you have no right to criticize the government for the electricity crisis if you’re not making an effort to solve the crisis yourself.Recommend

  • https://twitter.com/#!/iQuoteWhateverr toobahatif

    a person who is voluntarily working for the acid victims and some one filmed his work and presented in front of the world is being an opportunist for you??
    Then why couldn’t you or any ‘sophomore’ student couldn’t make it as you give an ‘A’ to it at that level..
    and about the “No message wala part” it depends upon perception.. I found the message pretty loud and clear and I guess it was a great attempt by her to bring upon issue with such serious nature to light which was being ignored in Pakistan..
    I was soo amazed that why havent any one from ET hasnt let down the oscar winning movie or the Sharmeen.. and here it is ..
    Hugs and kisses you never lemme down ET :)Recommend

  • Shamy

    As a Pakistani living abroad, i am constantly trying to conceal this Oscar and the documentary….Recommend

  • http://blogs.tribune.com.pk/author/430/faraz-talat/ Faraz Talat

    Author,

    Your critique rests on the pillars of wild speculation and erroneous logic.

    For instance, this baseless notion that the film “indirectly legitimises” the West’s intervention in this region. The Western powers have never claimed they’ve been interfering in our internal affairs as a result of our social instability. No idiot believes that the US is sending drones to help out destitute Pakistani women. That’s a completely different matter.

    Otherwise, why restrict this criticism to Saving Face? Every time the Lal band sings songs about terrorism in Pakistan, they’re legitimizing USA’s drone attacks. Every time a politician speaks at a rally about our socioeconomic problems, he is by your logic, legitimizing foreign intervention.

    Hush, everybody! Let’s stop talking about Pakistan’s problems out loud as it might give those evil Westerners the wrong message!Recommend

  • Knotty

    Oscar is decided by specialists… one needs BIG credentials to rubbish such achievements.
    .
    I dont mind if Steven Spielberg or James Cameroon criticise but Abira Ashfaq’s attempt is indeed ‘grapes are sour’!!Recommend

  • Knotty

    With such negative attitude, I am surprised that Pakistan even got one oscar!Recommend

  • Haq

    @Ann Fruntoch (critic):
    Yes it’s really unfair how people diminish Junge’s role. He must be given due credit and acknowledged for his work too. Recommend

  • http://syedaabidabokhari.wordpress.com The Only Normal Person Here.

    You nailed it. Gonna hurt a lobby, but that’s okay. In fact, GOOD.Recommend

  • TheTruth

    This is absolutely spot on and pretty much the way I feel about this whole Oscar business. Great read!Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    OK so I have more time to reply now. I am just a bit surprised this blog was published, actually. Not only is it full of factual inaccuracies, but the author has a clear personal issue which she is using this blog as a platform to present as facts in the form of a review. Tsk… tsk.

    Furthermore, she has a clear misunderstanding of how a documentary functions. All documentaries are scripted at some level. There is a level of artificial narrative on some level.

    The many demands the author of this blog has from the documentary are simply ridiculous and betray a lack of understanding. The documentary functioned to highlight an issue by presenting real stories, not present depth in history etc.

    There is a cut off limit when it comes having a short documentary presented to a jury at Cannes or The Academy Awards or to BAFTA even. It requires precise editing.

    What the author is demanding is kinda ridiculous.

    Cynicism and negativity are unfortunately rampant in our Pakistani armchair critics. I am also a little surprised by people praising the points raised in the blog, who haven’t watched it yet.

    Disliking any work of art, whether it be a film, videogame, piece of music, documentary is fine. But these arguments based on misunderstandings, disinformation, and projection of personal views are just sad.Recommend

  • Reddy

    as NFP says, oscars,martians, burger king all out to get pakistan while the author is the only saving grace who is hellbent on resisting vile bread eating rednecks in their tirade of evangelism towards the land of pureRecommend

  • http://bigsaf.newsvine.com bigsaf

    This article by Tribune’s social critic blogger, Abira Ashfaq, clashes with Tribune’s media review blogger, Noman Ansari’s article on the documentary.

    One claims it a masterpiece that humanizes the victims and highlights a pressing issue, the other claims it mediocre art, exploitive which could have had more impact by discussing the issue deeper instead of themselves. One says it was raw altruism and transformation of a flawed cocky doctor, the other says the doctor was more into feeling good as a Brown Sahib. etc.

    Think I’ll just watch it.

    A short 10-20 minute youtube video of back and forth debate between the two commentators might be an opportunity for the Tribune Video-scape section (I expect money in my Paypal account, Jahanzaib Haque). It’ll be great entertainment too. Saving Face 2. A lawyer who gets paid to argue and trying to stay sane by not eating paan like Asma Jehangir vs a media geek whose wasting way too much time on gaming, entertainment and trivia for his own good. Fight…Recommend

  • Sadia

    Can the author please relax. This is how documentaries are made. You cant expect the people in them to be better human beings because they are not actors.
    Any documentary that explores human suffering has an element of voyeurism in it. Whether its about atomic bomb victims in Japan, dying dolphins or obese americans. Has the author never seen a documentary?
    Maybe if we stop being such jerks to women in Pakistan, films like this wont be made and the “zionists” at the oscars wont exploit usRecommend

  • Roland Borges

    It only took this writer about five months to figure out how to trash one of Pakistan’s proudest moments and other nay-Sayers jumped on this bandwagon with absurd observations.
    I do not understand the over analysis of this subject matter and some obscure unknown critic named Ann Fruntoch who seems to have insider information. At the same time it does not even begin to dampen the spirit of celebration and joy that Sharmeen & Daniel delivered to Pakistan at a time when the country really needed it any the world were alerted to the fact that a very talented creative group of artists exists and are carving a place for Pakistan on the world stage. Recommend

  • Sana

    “She is on the bed looking diminutive. He towers over her.” 100% agreed on this one, I felt so uncomfortable with the way he approached her… this is Pakistan, not west Doctor sahab. here we keep a comfortable distance with men. PS: I salute you for the noble work you are doing, but the style is wrong. Recommend

  • narayana murthy

    Is there a way to watch it online?

    I’m not sure if the author is right. If I can watch it online, I can give an objective and an expert opinion.

    I’m a filmmaker by the way. This is only my alias, not my real name.Recommend

  • Dee

    Good read, I am a fan Abira!Recommend

  • http://think-islam.blogspot.com PostMan

    @Faraz Talat: ‘Abira has an opinion.. So all those who accuse her of berating the doers while doing nothing herself, have no idea what they’re talking about.’

    OK I do not want to be in that category which you she stated but she herself starts like this. ‘In February, when Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s Film, Saving Face, on acid burn victims won an Oscar, I was sceptical.‘ Why? When I heard this I was very happy and I had not seen the documentary. Why could she not be happy she won an Oscar? It was not a rumour mind you.

    There is nothing wrong with her objections or critique of the movie, everyone does that. I usually watch Oscar winner movies and sometimes even I feel that the movie was not worth an Oscar. What Abira has done, and my sincere apologies to Abira for being negative here, that she starts out with a negative mind and attempts to find reasons for her being sceptical in the first place. That does not sound to me as a good approach.Saving Face might not have been an Oscar worthy documentary but then, many others have been not as well. By the way, Sharmeen has won an Emmy before so there is some credential to the the work she does.Recommend

  • T

    For God’s sake, please leave this “Saving Face” and “Oscar” thing alone. Who cares about the oscars anyway. Recommend

  • sadia hussain

    According to the author, following are responsible for the miseries of acid victims:

    1) The West: Since they have been sending drones to pakistan, pakistani men have no other way to deal with that other than throwing acid on their women’s face

    2) The Pakistani Elites: One of the elites made the documentary to highlight the plight of acid victims and the other was doing surgery on their faces to restore some functionality to them. That only adds insult to injury since one is showing them to be weak and battered (which they are obviously not, acid victim are abused? are you kidding me?) and the other one is doing the charity work to feel all high and mighty…how dare them?

    3) Women who go under the knife: If only they didn’t give in to society’s superficial standards of beauty, there would be a huge psychological transformation and no one would ever find an acid victim’s face hideous. So surgeries to restore functionality and some semblance to a normal face is not necessary, people need to deprogram their minds about what humans find attractive.

    4) The NGOs: As they are demanding retributive justice rather than restorative one. Since our systems are not evolved and equipped enough to provide restorative justive, how dare the NGOs talk about retributive justice for the victim? They should rather be content with the aggressors roaming free.

    So basically we should blame everyone but the actual perpetrator of the act who carries out the act of throwing the acid…anywhere else, it would sound messed up…in pakistani society, sounds about right…Recommend

  • mohammed ali jawaid

    @Sana:
    sorry dear, you’ve forced me to give a rather ‘not so comfortable example’ but tell me what ‘comfortable’ distance our Pakistani women keep with a male gynacologist? Recommend

  • sadia hussain

    Here is the problem with the blogger’s critical analysis..On the one hand, she is accusing the journalist of making a documentary catering to the western audience and on the other hand she wanted the people particpating in the documentary to have the same level of sophistication and nuance as the highly educated individuals of first world countries…How can you expect the lawyers and NGOs of pakistan to talk on the subject of restorative justice when they celebrated the killing of Salman Tasseer and hailed Mumtaz Qadri as a hero?…How can you expect an illiterate victim of an acid attack to wish for a daughter in an extremely patriarchal society of pakistan? If you found the documentary mediocre, it’s because it highlights an urgent issue of a mediocre society where men still treat their women as their properties….the discourse on restorative justice and dissecting and discussing the more subtle and nuanced aspects of the issue comes later, the need to quickly put a stop to this monstrosity comes first and this can’t be dont unless we use a more direct approach and call a spade a spade…i.e., blame and punish people who are actually responsible for such shameful acts…Recommend

  • oscar what??

    who cares about oscars?

    oscars don’t solve problems. they are only good for glamour.

    What matters is the work done at grass roots level to eradicate the problem. If her documentary aids the solution in any way than fair enough. And if it is or remains just an oscar winner than seriously who cares?? at least acid victims won’t!Recommend

  • Taimur Rahman

    I strongly disagree with this sort of cynicism. I think Sharmeen has done great work and deserves our support and solidarity.

    She stood up, she stood tall and she was recognized by the leading film makers in the world for her work.

    In solidarity
    Taimur Rahman
    LaalRecommend

  • sultan mirza

    i think et should rename this section to friends and family since these are the only ones that make it through with infactual blogs. Picking up pitch to voice against these victims is a good thing no matter what the behind objective may be of the producer. Writeups like these are actual discouragement for the future producers who want to highlight another pressing issue of our nation. Instead of express tribune aiding to positives of a new start it actually wants to take several steps back towards the dark days.Recommend

  • Zalim Singh

    Mam Abira

    why dont you sit on the Oscar panel next time onwards? Then justice wikll be served.Recommend

  • Ozymandias

    Those who can’t create, criticise.Recommend

  • She

    If something happened to you accidentally and put you in bad condition and you are trying to cope out of it, would you like to be potrayed in a documentary so the other people could know that you suffered? Would you like to see people pitying you and looking at photos n videos of your very personal life thing? Privacy of victims is one thing which is really missing from pakistani development work ethics, no matter if it is a flood catastrophe or acid victims, we love to show miseries of others in the form of photos and videos to fulfil our motives. Help others in trouble, tell the world that they need help but care for the poor person’s self respect, care for her privacy before sharing it with the world.Recommend

  • musafir

    its a wonderful description of the reality. The really identifies the underlying attitudes and thoughts of all stakeholders. Thumbs Abira. I have the same thoughts but i wish i had vocabulary like to write it down.Recommend

  • sultan mirza

    @She only a She can think like that. :)Recommend

  • nha

    Thank you Ms Asfaq. Fine piece of writing, solid analysis and I completely agree with all your points. Representation, nuance, objectification…..seriously undervalued concepts not only in this documentary but generally all over Pakistan and concerning all subjects.Recommend

  • Dante

    And I thought I was alone thinking like that. So there is someone who shares my opinions.

    It’s true that the only reason the documentary won the oscar award is because it touches a certain “sensitive issue” that in West’s opinion, is so reminiscent of third world women.

    And I’m not surprised with the backlash of people commenting. Consensus is, if you disagree with the majority, such a backlash is deserved.Recommend

  • sultan mirza

    oh sorry i just remember that I didn’t post any comments!!! I made a boo boo out of myself.Recommend

  • leila rage

    @Author: you display the typical paranoid-conspiracy-theorist-pakistani attitude.
    the documentary highlighted an important issue. Acid violence is on the rise and yet acid is easily available all over pakistan and no one is every actually punished for acid violence. Also, why should these women not get plastic surgery? It’ll be easily to heal the psychological scars if they dont have to constantly be reminded of what they went through when they look in the mirror. If God forbid someone’s leg is mauled by a lion, do you think that person has no right to get a prosthetic? You are really just being very negative.

    If her documentary had been nominated and had not won, it wouldve been people like you who would harp on about the ‘politics’ involved and how oscars could be awarded to indian but not pakistanis.

    For once, just look at the bright side.Recommend

  • Farrukh Kazimi

    Gave words to my thoughts.Recommend

  • geeko

    Abira Ashfaq, one my favourite blogger (Oil is Opium) from Pakistan… love you. I really do. <3Recommend

  • curious

    Don’t you know Oscar awards are highly politically motivated.Recommend

  • Humanity

    @Shamy wrote As a Pakistani living abroad, i am constantly trying to conceal this Oscar and the documentary…

    Shoving the trash under the rug does not make it go away. Accepting the open sours of the Pakistani psyche is the first step towards a cure.Recommend

  • http://- Abid P Khan

    @Humanity:

    Not solving a problem is the best way to solve a problem. Recommend

  • http://lurkinginambush.blogspot.com/ Abira Ashfaq

    Thank you for reading my piece and I appreciate all the constructive feedback. Here are two other pieces that provide perspective on the film, and also how we make sustainable change and end the violence against women, and acid attacks in particular. If anything, the film provides an opportunity for us to demand better legislative changes, and make sure that as a society we do not reinforce patriarchal values which provide the context for such abuse.

    http://www.thenational.ae/arts-culture/film/the-real-miracle-workers-fighting-and-healing-pakistans-acid-attacks#

    http://swasthyamundial.com/2012/02/saving-faces-in-pakistan-looking-forward-from-the-oscar/

    All I was saying was that we should not accept Oscars as a mark of excellence and should question narrative that appear black and white, provides heroes and villains, monolithic solutions, fits imperialist story telling- we also never lose the right to critique any piece of work, and criticism is the sign of a society that is alive and kicking. Always, though best to keep it to political arguments and substantive ideas rather than personal attacks.Recommend

  • Maryam

    Hey Abira! How did you manage to get hold of the documentary?Recommend