Tuesday, January 24, 2012

Pakistani documentary nominated for Oscar Award

Emmy Award winner Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s latest film Saving Face has won an Oscar nomination in the category "Best Documentary, Short Subject".

Saving Face is the story of two women from Southern Punjab who are victims of acid attack. “It’s a positive story about Pakistan on two accounts: firstly, it portrays how a Pakistani-British doctor comes to treat them and it also discusses, in great depth, the parliament’s decision to pass a bill on acid violence,” Obaid-Chinoy had said when her film was short-listed for nominations in October 2011, according The Express Tribune. The recently passed Acid Control and Acid Crime Prevention Bill requires that the perpetrators of acid violence be punished with life in prison.

Saving Face features a British Pakistani doctor; Dr. Muhammad Ali Jawad, a graduate of Karachi's Dow Medical College. He became famous after he performed revolutionary plastic surgery on Katie Piper, a British model who was burned by acid thrown in her face by her ex boyfriend. Dr. Jawad traveled back to Pakistan to help some of the women victims of acid violence. It's the story of his journey to Pakistan, but it's also a story of two Pakistani women who were victims of acid attacks and how they dealt with the aftermath of the attacks.

Saving Face was released in the US in November, 2011, and the Oscars will be awarded on February 26, 2012.

Born in 1978 in Karachi, Sharmeen is the first Pakistani to win an Emmy award. She won it for her documentary Pakistan: Children of the Taliban in 2010. She graduated from Smith College in the United States with a bachelor of arts in economics and government and then went to complete two master's degrees from Stanford University in International Policy Studies and Mass Communications.

Obaid-Chinoy began her career with New York Times Television in 2002 with the production of 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. Her films have been shown on Channel 4, CNN, PBS, and Al-Jazeera English.

Sharmeen has a very ambitious social and educational reform agenda for her country. In addition to her career as a filmmaker, Sharmeen is a TED fellow and a social entrepreneur. She is actively working to bring about an "education revolution" in Pakistan's Sindh province. "There needs to be an overhaul," Obaid-Chinoy recently told Fast Company. "Textbooks are outdated and I've been working with the government on how to encourage critical thinking and move away from rote memorization....It's tough, because the mindset is not there. The teachers are essentially products of the same system. We have to break the culture, which takes a long time."

Sindh's teachers are now spending significant time in professional training with education experts to try and reform the teaching of English, math, and social studies. "We're really making this a movement for education for social change," Obaid-Chinoy told Fast Company.

What Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and her fellow social entrepreneurs are doing in Pakistan's unhealthy culture of complaints is truly inspirational. Let's hope others will follow in her footsteps to light candles and not just curse darkness.

Here's an Urdu video clip of Sharmeen's reaction to Oscar nomination:

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

Inquiry-based Teaching in Pakistan

Light a Candle, Don't Curse Darkness

Social Entrepreneurs Target India and Pakistan

TEDx Karachi Inspires Hope

Pakistan's Child Prodigy

Plastic Surgery at Indus Hospital in Karachi


Muzaffar said...

We blame the west and its media in projecting the negativity about Pakistan, well what do we do ourselves…..lets think and try to change own approach.

Riaz Haq said...

Muzaffar: "We blame the west and its media in projecting the negativity about Pakistan, well what do we do ourselves…..lets think and try to change own approach."

I see this recognition as a positive. The film shows the caring side of Pakistanis....a plastic surgeon donating time to restore victims faces, and a parliament passing laws to punish perpetrators of such insanity. These Pakistanis are lighting candles, not cursing darkness.


sanaahamed said...

congratulation Sharmeen Obaid to nominated for Oscar Award The whole nations so proud of you.

Khalid said...

Sharmeen has made all of us proud Pakistani. We wish her all the success in her profession.

Anonymous said...

she needs to be careful as she might invite the wrath of taleban and religious extremists for her documentary on taleban. All the best obaid.

Riaz Haq said...

Here are some findings of Buffalo University researchers on Pakistani women:

"Despite the overwhelming media attention to the rise of fundamentalism and Pakistan's geopolitical role in the 'war against terror,' Pakistan has an often-unrevealed side, characterized by an active women's movement that serves as a key democratic force committed to expanding women's rights," Filomena Critelli writes in her study, "Struggle and Hope: Challenging Gender Violence in Pakistan."

Forthcoming in the journal Critical Sociology, Critelli's analysis is based on interviews with activists who founded a legal aid practice to defend women's rights and a private shelter for women fleeing from abuse.

People seldom hear about the activism of these women's groups, Critelli says. But their work and resiliency, often in the face of resistance, harassment and safety threats, should be recognized as much as the elements of fundamentalism that have attracted international headlines.

"Within civil society (in Pakistan), women activists are advocating to implement strategies to limit gender violence as well as provide care for survivors," she writes in the study. "The women's movement continues to negotiate women's interests with the state and society, and has become increasingly effective over time, strengthened by regional and international recognition of its work."

The struggle against abuse against women in Pakistan -- which often reaches graphic proportions such as "honor killings," forced marriages, child marriages and other forms of gender violence -- is seen through a "secular human rights framework" by these activists, according to Critelli, assistant professor of social work at UB. Critelli has authored several studies on gender-based violence and women's rights activism in Pakistan. Her most recent research paper was prepared with her former student, Jennifer Willett.

It's a movement that often surprises people who do not realize the pluralistic Pakistani culture, she says, one that exists with sometimes contradictory elements that include these strong advocates of women's rights, changing political climates and traditional patriarchal social orders that inhibit independence of women.

For example, this vibrant women's rights movement has been active for over 30 years in Pakistan. Pakistan was the first Muslim country to elect a women leader, Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, and has adopted policies that set a quota of 30 percent of reserved seats for women in Parliament. As a result, women's representation in Pakistan's parliament is the highest in South Asia.

Although the women's rights movement is alive and well in Pakistan, the country also is marked by a strongly patriarchal society where male power manifests itself in a high incidence of domestic violence.

"Gender violence is estimated to take place in as many as 80 to 90 percent of the households in Pakistan," notes Critelli. "Gender violence in Pakistan takes a variety of forms, some of which are common across cultures such as marital violence, including verbal abuse, hitting, kicking, slapping, rape and murder, and economic and emotional abuse.

"Other forms of violence are rooted in traditional practices that continue under the guise of social conformism, customs and misinterpretations of religion, that also include exchange marriage, death by burning (stove deaths, which are presented as accidents), acid attacks and nose cutting (a form of humiliation and degradation)," Critelli writes. "Women are also raped and abused while in police custody, which further deters many women from reporting crimes against them."

All these practices are contrary to Pakistani law, human rights treaties ratified by Pakistan, as well as the tenets of Islam...


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Brown Daily Herald report on an upcoming Pakistani documentary "The Other Half of Tomorrow: Women Changing Pakistan":

Samina Quraeshi is a Renaissance woman in every sense of the phrase. A native of Pakistan, she has worn the hats of author, artist, architect, speaker, academic, photographer, curator — and now filmmaker.

Quraeshi presented clips from her upcoming documentary, "The Other Half of Tomorrow: Women Changing Pakistan," to a rapt audience of roughly 30 students and Rhode Island natives Wednesday night in the Perry and Marty Granoff Center for the Creative Arts. The richly detailed and tenderly shot film tells the stories of women in Pakistan trying to make positive changes in their surroundings as entrepreneurs, public health workers and dance instructors, among other jobs.

In an address before the screening, Quraeshi said her motive behind producing the film was to present the human face of a region often vilified in the media.

"I want to use art to introduce complex cultural nuances," she said. "Sensationalist portrayals begin to warp the public's consciousness of the people who live in (Pakistan)."

Soft-spoken and often dryly humorous, Quraeshi also emphasized that understanding a place's history is essential to understanding its culture.

"During the past Bush era, there was a culture of fear on top of a lack of awareness," she told The Herald. "It made people want to get into their houses and watch their TVs, but all the media coverage was doing was propagating stereotypes."

The film preview was part of a national series called "Caravanserai: A Place Where Cultures Meet," which aims to introduce American audiences to contemporary Muslim artists. The Providence nonprofit FirstWorks competed fiercely with organizations across the country to host Caravanserai in the city, said Kathleen Pletcher, executive artistic director of FirstWorks. Only four other U.S. nonprofits earned a spot as a stop on the tour.

"There's this idea of a caravanserai as a place where weary travelers along the road stop and rest and share their stories," Pletcher said. "It's a very collective act. And that's what we're hoping to do here — connect art with audience."

The next Caravanserai event is a Feb. 7 screening of "Made in Pakistan," a documentary from Pakistani filmmaker Ayesha Khan. Quraeshi's film is slated to be released in October.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Guardian piece on Pakistan's film industry:

It claims to not only be the most anticipated film in the history of Pakistan, but to be based on true events. And, for once, the Hollywood-style hyperbole can be excused. The feature-length action thriller called Waar ("to strike" in Urdu) is eagerly awaited, despite being out of tune with the trend for movies packed with singing and dancing.

Waar is coming to cinemas in Islamabad, Lahore, Karachi and even the restive frontier city of Peshawar later this year. The trailer was viewed more than 500,000 times in the first month when posted on YouTube in January, entering the website's top five videos.

Inspired by real events such as a Muslim extremist assault on a Pakistani police academy in 2009, the film follows a team of anti-terrorist police officers who, with time running out, try to stop a new attack. But the subject matter is not the only attraction, say local critics. With its slick production and use of digital technology, the film, reportedly the country's most expensive ever, is a long way from the staples of local cinema.

"Waar is very, very new," says Sher Ali Khan, film reporter for the Express Tribune newspaper.

In recent years, there has been a series of films dealing with edgy subjects in Pakistan but these were made by, and watched by, the westernised middle classes. "So far the masses haven't accepted these new kind of films. They have catered to the westernised upper middle class. Popular tastes have stayed with the standard styles of plot and production," says Khan. "Waar can be considered the first new wave film to go mainstream."
However, along with Waar, a whole series of similar films is being readied for release in coming months.

One is Kaptaan, a cinematic rendering of the recent life of Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician who currently tops popularity polls in Pakistan. The film will cover Khan's life since retiring from sport 20 years ago and will dramatise his entry into politics as well as his failed marriage to Jemima Goldsmith, who is played by a Pakistan-American actress.

Tareen is producing Tamanna (Desire), a drama exploring class, adultery and, through flashbacks, the heyday of Lollywood. "It is neither action-based nor Bollywood-style. It is much more a pure drama with a narrative telling the story of three individuals," she says.

Sanaa Ahmed, a film journalist in Pakistan, sees the new developments in Pakistan as part of a broader global trend. "There are a lot of new young people with stories to tell who are figuring out ways to tell it," she says. "It's a new wave."

Lashari says Pakistan needs to "recreate" its cinema. "Everyone here has been following Bollywood but the best we can ever come up with is going to be a B grade knock off. We need to create our own identity," he says.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Indian Express story on Chinoy:

Growing up in a middle-class family in Karachi with five siblings and attending the local grammar school, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy always dreamt big. She convinced her parents to send her to Smith College in Massachusetts and eventually went to Stanford. What she possibly never factored in was an Oscar nomination — Pakistan’s first.

Among a number of greats at Kodak Theatre in Los Angeles on Sunday, Obaid-Chinoy will walk the red carpet in the hope of the golden knight for her documentary, Saving Face.

The 40-minute short, co-directed by US-based Daniel Junge, chronicles the journeys of survivors of acid violence in Pakistan and the reconstructive surgery of their faces done free of cost by UK-based plastic surgeon, Mohammad Jawad, who regularly travels to Pakistan for the same.

“This nomination is a testament to my belief that one’s background is irrelevant; anyone who strives for excellence will receive acknowledgment for their work. I feel proud to be representing Pakistan on such a prestigious stage. The problem with Pakistan has never been a lack of talent or ideas. We just have never had the right resources or infrastructure to project ourselves.”

The documentary was filmed in Pakistan’s Saraiki, an area struggling with unemployment coupled with a dismal literacy rate. It is competing against Robin Fryday and Gail Dolgin’s The Barber of Birmingham: Foot Soldier of the Civil Rights Movement and Rebecca Cammissa and Julie Anderson’s God is the Bigger Elvis.

Saving Face began after Junge heard Jawad on BBC discussing his reconstructive work, and contacted him immediately. “I thought he was a great subject for the film. As for Sharmeen, I was familiar with her work. I’ve never had such a great partner on a film...” says Junge.

Obaid-Chinoy has made 13 documentaries, all dealing with conflict situations.


Riaz Haq said...

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy just won the Oscar for Saving Face a few moments ago.

Anonymous said...

Mir Zafar Ali is an award-winning Pakistani movie visual effects specialist and artist. He played a background role in the team that won the Oscar award for best visual effects in 2007, for the movie The Golden Compass. He is the first Pakistani to have been connected with an Oscar award-winning venture, for Best Visual Effects.

Visual effects specialist Mir Zafar Ali started his career by creating the immaculate sheet of hair that cascades around a shampoo model's face. Since then, the Beaconhouse and FAST graduate from Karachi has scooped up an Oscar for the brilliant sequences in The Golden Compass in 2007 that beat those in The Pirates of the Caribbean: At World's End and Transformers. The world can also thank him for bringing the villain 'Venom' to life in Spider-Man III. Now, he's basking in the aftermath of another success, X-Men: First Class - the debuted at No. 1 in the box office in its opening weekend. If any young artist in Karachi thinks it can't be done, they just need to follow Mir Zafar Ali's career.

Ali began with doing what a lot of people in the visual effects field do - something unrelated. Having studied to be a software engineer in college, he quickly realized it wasn't nearly exciting enough. He spent some time trying his hand at the trade with local organizations such as Sharp Image and Nucleus Studios, always working primarily with computer graphics. Eventually, he took off to the US to specialize in visual effects at Savannah College of Art and Design, Georgia.

A few years later he found himself working on his first movie with Digital Domain, a Los Angeles-based company. Ali's first movie was The Day After Tomorrow in which he worked on wrapping colossal waves around buildings - and making it believable. His forte is replicating natural phenomena.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's Wall Street Journal on Sharmeen's choice of Pakistani fashion designers at Oscars:

When “Saving Face” was nominated for the 2012 Academy Awards, Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy swore she would choose clothes by Pakistan’s designers for the ceremony. “Our fashion industry features an array of talented and creative designers,” she said. “I am really excited to showcase some of that at the Oscars.”

Holding her Oscar high on Sunday, Ms. Obaid-Chinoy became Pakistan’s first Academy Award winner. She also made good on her promise, wearing creations by a range of Karachi-based women designers to events both on and off the red carpet. (Karachi is the city where she lives and works.)

On stage, the filmmaker wore an elegant Bunto Kazmi-designed shalwar kameez – a traditional outfit of loose-fitting trousers and a long tunic worn in South and Central Asia.

According to Ms. Kazmi, who is known for her elaborate bridal wear, the filmmaker wanted the outfit’s silhouette to be kept “contemporary.” In contrast, the glittering embroidery on the long ivory tunic coat, with cut-in sleeves and a structured collar, was inspired by traditional Persian motifs, while the border incorporated beaten silver and gold.

Gold also featured in Ms. Obaid-Chinoy’s accessories, created by jewelry designer Kiran Aman. The filmmaker’s dangling diamond-and-pearl earrings were set in vintage gold, the same material used for a bespoke cuff, which she wore on her right wrist. The piece was attached by a delicate gold rope to a round Pakistani flag encrusted with white diamonds and green sapphires.

Ms. Aman said she was “honored” to have the filmmaker wear her creations at the Oscars, adding that she had advised her to “hold the Oscar with the right hand” so that the flag would dangle.
At a pre-Oscar luncheon at the Beverly Hilton Hotel in L.A., Ms. Obaid-Chinoy showed up in an outfit by a less established name: up-and-coming designer Sania Maskatiya, whose label is a year old. Her hand-embroidered silk shalwar kameez featured a tree of life – signifying growth and success – adorned with multicolored birds and butterflies.

A relative newcomer to Pakistan’s fashion scene, Ms. Maskatiya transforms “the conventional to [the] contemporary” with her designs, which are stocked in Karachi, Dubai and Singapore. She said she was glad that fashion at the Oscars helped to project the country “in a softer light.”


Riaz Haq said...

Here's Daily Beast article on Saving Face:

Saving Face, which garnered Pakistan’s first ever Oscar, has brought to international attention the practice of acid throwing, a unique form of violence unfamiliar to many across the globe. Acid violence is by no means limited to Pakistan: attacks occur in Bangladesh, India, Cambodia, Nepal, Liberia, Afghanistan, Iran, the United Kingdom, and even the United States.

The Acid Survivors Trust International (ASTI) estimates there are approximately 1,500 acid attacks per year globally. Putting together accurate figures on acid violence can be problematic, as acid attacks are thought to be largely underreported, and numbers vary wildly from NGO to NGO. According to ASTI, 80 percent of victims are female, and attackers almost always are male (with the exception of Cambodia, where women attack other women just as often as men do). Victims are attacked for refusing proposals of love, sex or marriage, with assaults often fueled by the “if I can’t have her, no one can” mentality. In other instances attackers throw acid in business or land disputes. In Liberia, acid was used as a weapon during the country’s civil war.
Bangladesh, once known as the “acid-attack capital of the world,” has been the most successful in cracking down on acid violence. Whereas in 2002 Bangladesh saw 500 attacks annually, it now sees about 100 per year. Bangladesh was the first nation to adopt acid-specific legislation, and acid attacks carry a death sentence.

Obaid-Chinoy and Junge are working with ASTI and the Acid Survivors Foundation in Pakistan on an anti-acid violence outreach campaign that, as Junge says, “involves an education and awareness component.” Obaid-Chinoy has directed two public service announcements to air in Pakistan. “In Pakistan the outreach strategies will target Southern Punjab and Northern Sindh,” says John Morrison, founder and chair of ASTI. “There will be TV, radio and public service broadcasts. Schools, colleges, NGOs, mosques, local MPs, and community associations will be involved.”


Riaz Haq said...

Here's Time Magazine Op Ed on Sharmeen by Angelina Jolie:

Pakistan's first Oscar belongs to a monumental campaign that is changing the legal, social and political fate of survivors of acid-related violence. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy's documentary Saving Face brought Pakistan's acid-violence problem to the world stage. Today she is bringing the film's message to towns and villages in Pakistan through an educational-awareness campaign. Her film not only gave her subjects sympathy and understanding but, more important, gave them dignity. The "victims" in Saving Face are some of the strongest, most impressive women you will ever come across. She showed us their scars, and we saw their true beauty.

Obaid-Chinoy, 33, is also shaping the dialogue on Pakistan. Saving Face depicts a Pakistan that is changing — one where ordinary people can stand up and make a difference and where marginalized communities can seek justice. New legislation spearheaded by female parliamentarians will impose stricter sentencing on perpetrators of acid-related violence. This is a huge step forward.

Giving voice to those who cannot be heard, Obaid-Chinoy has made over a dozen award-winning films in more than 10 countries. She celebrates the strength and resilience of those fighting against seemingly insurmountable odds — and winning.

I dare anyone to watch this film and not be moved to tears and inspired into action.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times blog post on screening of Pakistan's Oscar-winning "Saving Face" documentary in India:

Earlier this month, India and Pakistan concluded foreign secretary-level diplomatic talks that didn’t yield much in the way of rapprochement. Yet on July 23 and 24, the two nations shared a bonhomie typical of their cultural diplomacy, when the Oscar-winning documentary “Saving Face,” filmed in Pakistan, premiered in New Delhi and Mumbai.

Brought to India by the Asia Society, the short film drew packed audiences in both cities, with over 550 people turning up in Delhi and about 475 in Mumbai.

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, one of the co-directors, was present after the film’s screening in Mumbai to discuss and answer questions. The interaction, led by the producer and director Kiran Rao of “Dhobi Ghaat” fame, was a spirited one, with the audience asking about unrelated subjects, from filmmaking to terrorism, in Pakistan.

The Mumbai audience was enthusiastic about “Saving Face,” which deals with the difficult subject of female acid attack victims in Pakistan’s Punjab province. The film follows the lives of two such victims, Zakia, 39 and Rukhsana, 23, who simultaneously try to obtain justice (in both cases, the attackers are their husbands) and try to repair their faces.

One of the film’s protagonists is Dr. Mohammad Jawad, a skilled plastic surgeon who leaves a thriving medical practice in London to help acid attack victims. With his irreverent humor and relaxed personality, Dr. Jawad helps lighten some especially traumatic and tense moments in the film. In one scene, for instance, he high-fives Zakia, the incongruity of which elicits chuckles from the audience.

“It was pretty hard hitting,” said Abhi Chaki, a Mumbai resident who saw the film with his wife. “It struck a fine balance between the lighter moments and the more morbid.” Another viewer, Jai Bhatia, said that he “loved the way the film was made, because you see the change that takes place.” Mr. Bhatia was referring to a scene in which a path-breaking bill is passed by Pakistan’s legislators to punish perpetrators of acid attacks.

The film aside, the audience appeared to marvel at the articulate and poised Ms. Obaid-Chinoy. Ms. Obaid-Chinoy said she initially rejected the offer to work on the film, the brainchild of her co-director, Daniel Junge, because she was just about to give birth in Canada. But after she moved to back to Pakistan, she changed her mind.
“We as a nation need to discuss these issues,” she said. “Pakistan does need India. Our generation must broaden the conversation.”

Asked by an audience member if she thought she had a future in Pakistani politics, Ms. Obaid-Chinoy, who lives in Karachi, smiled. “Perhaps. I never close that door.”

Born and raised in Pakistan, Ms. Obaid-Chinoy, the eldest of five daughters, said she grew up believing she could do anything as well as a man. At 17, she went undercover as a journalist to expose Pakistani children from rich feudal families who had access to guns and consequently terrorized their less privileged peers. In response, filthy graffiti about her was sprawled across neighborhoods in her hometown of Karachi.

She thought her father would tell her to give up journalism there and then, but he surprised her by saying, “If you speak the truth, I will stand by you and so will the world.” This year, Time magazine named Ms. Obaid-Chinoy one of the 100 most influential people in the world.


Riaz Haq said...

Here's Express Tribune on Mir Zafar Ali, Pakistani-American Oscar winner Mir

Richard Parker swims in the Life of Pi ocean. Afterwards, the 10 million hair on the Bengal tiger’s body are wiped down, his fur gradually morphing from dripping wet to dry. In Frozen, we watch the little girl Elsa create snowfall and her enchanting ice world emerge. The line between fantasy and reality blurs, so real are the images. But this much is clear; the artist behind this graphic wizardry deserves the three Oscar awards he has received in six years.
The recognition from the industry for Pakistani visual effects artist, 38-year-old Mir Zafar Ali, has been nothing short of a dream come true. His latest Academy Award, for Frozen, was the first in the animation category for the Walt Disney Animation Studios. The 3D musical fantasy-comedy film is now the highest-grossing animated film in history, beating the Lion King and Toy Story 3. It has also made it to the top 10 biggest films, leaving far behind the likes of Star Wars and the Pirates of the Caribbean series.
Ali’s first Oscar came for The Golden Compass in 2008. He recalls the moment as being “very, very surreal.” “My wife Tamanna Shah was working at Paramount Studios at the time and we were invited to one of their Oscar parties. So we’re talking to people, having a good time and then the nomination for the best visual effects category came up and I almost dropped my drink when they announced The Golden Compass as the winner,” he said in a telephone interview with The Express Tribune.
It was a tough competition. They had been up against Transformers and Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End. “It took a good few seconds to sink in,” he recalled.
Ali’s forte is to mainly recreate natural phenomena such as water, fire, destruction and snow as well as visually recreate fantasy. This takes hundreds of hours of reference research, watching footage of natural phenomena such as tsunamis and storms and poring over science papers.
His second Academy Award came last year for the Life of Pi, a movie based on Yann Martel’s acclaimed novel. The Bengal tiger named Richard Parker stars in most sequences, although the real 300-pound tiger was only used when Pi and Richard are not in the same shot. The rest of the scenes consist of computer-generated images that give life to an extremely challenging script. It was in Life of Pi that a real animal and a digital one were used interchangeably for the first time. A team of 15 people were dedicated to creating just the fur by placing and combing all 10 million hair on his body.
But in the United States, even Oscar wins don’t promise job security. After the successes of Life of Pi and The Golden Compass, Ali found himself unemployed for some weeks. “After being in business for well over a decade, the company I worked for, Rhythm & Hues, filed for bankruptcy in 2013,” he said. “That was right after we won the Oscar for Life of Pi. There were major layoffs and I ended up on the chopping block after I wrapped up Percy Jackson 2 in April.”
The layoff came as a near blessing though and a couple of weeks later he was offered a job at Disney where he was assigned Frozen, leading to his second consecutive Oscar win. “The timing worked out perfectly for me.”
Ali grew up in Karachi watching a wide range of films and was particularly interested in science-fiction and fantasy movies. Jurassic Park was his first main inspiration. “It completely blew me away!” he said.
He studied at the BeaconHouse School Systems and always wanted to go to art school. “But back in the day, going to art school wasn’t thought of as a good career move — hell, it’s still not thought of as a good career move,” he admitted. As a result, it took him a while to figure out what he wanted to do..


Riaz Haq said...

Three #Pakistan films "Abdullah","Baat Cheet","Holiday in December"screened at #Cannes2015 film festival in #France http://www.bbc.com/news/entertainment-arts-32878660 …

Riaz Haq said...

Oscar-winning Sharmeen Chinoy's 3 Bahadur becomes highest grossing animated feature film ever in #Pakistan

http://tribune.com.pk/story/899872/a-bahadur-new-world/ …

Pakistan’s first full-length animated feature 3 Bahadur has become the highest grossing animated-film ever to release in Pakistan.

It is truly an exciting time for Pakistani cinema. Over the course of the last year and a half, Pakistani filmmakers have treaded into new and untested waters and unsurprisingly all of them have managed to wow the audience.

First there was Bilal Lashari’s action-thriller Waar, then Nabeel Qureshi’s game-changing comedy Na Maloom Afraad and last but not the least Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s animated movie 3 Bahadur.

Billed as Pakistan’s first animated feature film, the movie is in the midst of a stellar run at the box office and has now become the highest-grossing animated movie in the history of Pakistani cinema.

Previously the record was held by Blue Sky Studio’s Rio 2 which grossed an estimated Rs 4.5 crore but 3 Bahadur has comfortably managed to outdo the Hollywood movie after only three weeks with a box office collection of Rs 4.7 crore up till now.

According to the executive producer of 3 Bahadur Jerjees Seja, the success of the film underlined the fact that Pakistani audiences want to ‘watch their own films’.

“It is really great that a first ever Pakistani animated film has managed to outdo a major Hollywood franchise like Rio 2 in terms of box office,” said Jerjees.

Released in over 35 cinemas the movie has managed to perform well at cinemas in both Punjab and Sindh, with each province contributing 50 per cent to the total box office collection. The film was not released in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan.

“Although the film did perform well in its first week it has picked up tremendously during the last two weeks,” said Khurram Gultasab, the general manager of the chain of Super Cinemas in Punjab. He identified ‘exams’ as a major reason behind the lesser turnout in the cinemas during the first week.

Released during the highly crowded summer window the movie faced tough competition from other international releases with movies like Piku, Bombay Velvet, Tanu Weds Manu Returns and Avengers: Age of Ultron.

Riaz Haq said...

I recently noticed a new producer's name while watching the top-rated CBS 60 Minutes show: Habiba Nosheen. She's a Pakistani-Canadian. Here's more on her:

Emmy award-winning filmmaker and New York-based journalist Habiba Nosheen can be best described as a storyteller.

The Pakistani-Canadian mom and professor, who signed on with “60 Minutes” earlier this year, has an impressive portfolio of emotionally complex and hard-hitting stories. Each story is representative of her knack for combining investigative journalism with the ability to humanize a headline.

The subject of her Emmy-winning documentary, “Outlawed in Pakistan,” follows one Pakistani woman’s struggle to seek justice for allegedly being victim to a gang rape at 13-years-old. She was later subsequently ostracized by the community because she was “tainted” by it.

Difficult for anyone to watch, it’s almost hard to imagine how someone like Pakistan–born Nosheen was able to maintain neutrality, the hallmark of a journalist’s work ethic, while making the film.

It’s a question she’s posed with often, Nosheen said, sometimes even laced with accusations for being a disloyal expat. But Pakistani or not, woman or not, Nosheen’s dedication to responsible storytelling calls for a standard that goes beyond bias or personal opinion.

“People always ask how you stay neutral especially when I have reported on rape cases and interviewed murderers and alleged terrorists.” Nosheen said. “My answer is your job as a journalist is to sit in for your audience and to ask the questions the audience wants answers to.”

Nosheen added: “And if I ever report on a story from Pakistan that’s hard-hitting, there are always plenty of critics who say, ‘Oh, that story is making Pakistan look bad.’ And my answer to them is: I never shy away from doing an investigative story in the United States because I think it would make Americans look bad. My obligation as a journalist is to give a voice to stories that are underreported and to expose wrongdoings.”


Riaz Haq said...

Director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy hopes her Oscar-nominated film will help end #Pakistan honor killings http://reut.rs/23SndVC via @Reuters

An Oscar-winning filmmaker hopes her latest Academy Award-nominated documentary will help bring tougher laws against honor killings in Pakistan, which account for the deaths of hundreds of women and men each year.

The film, which follows the story of a young woman who survived attempted murder by her father and uncle after marrying a man without their approval, was nominated for an Oscar in January, prompting Pakistan's prime minister to pledge to take a firm stand against the "evil" practice.

More than 500 men and women died in honor killings in 2015, according to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan.

Many of these crimes, carried out by relatives who say their mostly female victims have brought shame on the family, are never prosecuted, observers say.

"People need to realize that it is a very serious crime," Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy told Reuters in an interview in the southern city of Karachi.

"It's not something that is part of our religion or culture. This is something that should be treated as pre-meditated murder and people should go to jail for it."

Obaid-Chinoy's film "A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness", scheduled to air on HBO in March, tells the story of 19-year-old Saba from Pakistan's Punjab province.

After marrying a man without the agreement of her family, Saba's father and uncle beat her, shot her in the face, put her in a bag and threw her in a river, leaving her for dead.

Saba survived, and set out to ensure that her attackers were brought to justice.

Her father and uncle were arrested and went to jail, but Saba was pressured to "forgive" her attackers. That option under Pakistani law can effectively waive a complainant's right to seek punishment against the accused, even in the case of attempted murder.

Altering the law to remove the possibility of "forgiveness" could help reduce the number of honor killings in Pakistan, advocates of such a change say.

An act that would amend the law across Pakistan was passed by one house of parliament last year, but did not clear the other chamber due to delays, said Sughra Imam, who introduced the bill when she was a lawmaker.

Both she and Obaid-Chinoy hope the attention the film has received abroad and at home, including from Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, might help push the amendments through.

"The greatest win of 'A Girl in the River' would be if the prime minister does take the lead, brings the stakeholders on board and they pass the (act)," Obaid-Chinoy said.

After the film was nominated in the short documentary category, Sharif issued a statement congratulating the filmmaker and pledging his government's commitment to rid Pakistan of the "evil" of honor killings by "bringing in appropriate legislation."

Obaid-Chinoy has already won an Oscar in the same category for "Saving Face", a film about acid attacks in Pakistan.

Sharif invited the director to screen the new film at his residence to an audience of prominent Pakistanis.

Although it is not clear exactly how Sharif proposes to change existing legislation, Obaid-Chinoy said his reaction was a pleasant surprise.

"This could be (Sharif's) legacy ... that no woman in this country should be killed in the name of honor, and if she is, people should go to jail for it," she said.

"The world is watching."

Riaz Haq said...

Congrats to #Pakistan's Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy on winning 2nd #Oscar for"A Girl in the River" #AcademyAwards http://ctv.news/cusOF4T

A searing look at honour killings in Pakistan has earned Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy an Academy Award.
The 37-year-old director claimed her second career Oscar on Sunday for "A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness" in the best short documentary category.
The film examines the case of an 18-year-old Pakistani girl who survived a brutal attack by her father and uncle bent on an "honour killing."
"This is what happens when determined women get together," a triumphant Obaid-Chinoy declared to cheers from the celeb-studded crowd.
"This week the Pakistani prime minister has said that he will change the law on honour killing after watching this film. That is the power of film."
"A Girl in the River" is the latest in a series of socially charged investigative films from Obaid-Chinoy's Karachi-based film company SOC Film.
She previously won a documentary short Oscar for "Saving Face" in 2012, about acid attacks.
The Pakistani premiere for "A Girl in the River" was attended by senior cabinet members and diplomats. After the screening, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to change laws that allow families to murder their daughters in the name of "honour."
Rights groups estimate that about 1,000 Pakistani women are killed every year for "bringing shame" to their families.
The brutal tradition allows murderers to avoid punishment if they are forgiven by the family of their victims.
Obaid-Chinoy's other accolades include a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, a Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum and a state honour from the Pakistani government.
In the weeks leading up to the Oscars, Obaid-Chinoy said she was grateful to see her nomination spark discussion around religiously motivated murders.
"I think that that's a win in itself because it's such a difficult topic and people shy away from it, normally," said Obaid-Chinoy, a dual citizen who lived in Toronto from 2004 to 2015.
Her competition Sunday included Toronto-based journalist Adam Benzine, who was up for his short film "Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah."
"A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness" is set to air on HBO Canada on March 7.
Following her Oscar win for Documentary Short, search interest in Obaid-Chinoy increased worldwide by 177 per cent, according to Google Canada.

Riaz Haq said...

#Oscar winning film on "honor killings" exposes #SharmeenObaidChinoy to witch hunt in #Pakistan http://nytlive.nytimes.com/womenintheworld/2016/02/24/oscar-nominated-film-about-honor-killings-exposes-filmmaker-to-witch-hunt/ … via @WomenintheWorld

On a dark night in June 2014, a bruised and bloodied young woman stumbled into a petrol station in Gujranwala, a city in Pakistan’s Punjab province. She had been beaten, shot in the face, dumped in a burlap sack and thrown into a nearby canal. As her attackers fled, the cool water jolted her awake. She struggled out of the sack, and treaded water till she reached the canal’s banks where, grasping at reeds, she pulled herself to dry land. She followed the distant lights of cars and motorbikes until she ended up at the station, begging for help. Eighteen-year-old Saba Qaiser was picked up by rescue services that night and taken to a hospital, where she told doctors her father and uncle tried to kill her for marrying a man they did not approve of.

This was a clear-cut case of ‘honor killing’, a practice that claimed the life of at least one woman in Pakistan every day in 2015 alone — and those are figures gleaned from reported cases only — as she is murdered for bringing ‘dishonor’ to her family.

In her latest documentary, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy met Saba’s father, Maqsood, shortly after he was arrested and charged with the attempted murder of his daughter. Furious that Saba married a man from a lower social class of her own free will, Maqsood claimed, “Whatever we did, we were obliged to do it. She took away our honor.” He describes his daughter’s decision to marry someone her parents did not approve of as “unlawful”.

“I labored and earned lawfully to feed her, this was unlawful of her,” he insisted. “If you put one drop of piss in a gallon of milk, the whole thing gets destroyed. That is what (Saba) has done.”

Unrepentant, Maqsood said: “If I had seen (Saba’s husband), I would have killed him too.”

While Saba underwent surgery for lacerations to her face and arm, her mother and sister did not visit her, Obaid-Chinoy’s documentary reveals. “Who can tolerate such betrayal by a daughter?” asked Saba’s sister Aqsa.

When Saba eloped, her family became the target of the neighborhood’s derision, Aqsa claims. “The people who feared us now taunt us.”

Saba’s mother Maqsooda says she did not know about her husband’s plan, but it doesn’t surprise her. “This is what happens when honor is at stake,” she explained. “Saba left no respect for me.”

Obaid-Chinoy’s film reveals the tenuous grip this concept of ‘honor’ has on many men and women in Pakistan and the lengths to which they will go to preserve it.

Riaz Haq said...

Pakistan start-up looks to break taboos around menstruation
Many women in the country remain uninformed about periods, but a social media-based project is targeting the problem


Saba Khalid has set herself the goal of breaking some of Islamic Pakistan’s long-held taboos with the help of the internet, smartphones and WhatsApp.

“Technology offers a sense of comfort,” she says of the work of Aurat Raaj, her Pakistani social enterprise. It educates women and adolescent girls about menstruation by means of audio messages sent via the WhatsApp social media platform.

Three years after Khalid, a journalist turned social entrepreneur, launched Aurat Raaj, she believes “there is a change of views coming” among communities in Pakistan’s southern Sindh province, where her service operates.

Though still short of meeting its objective of seeing information on menstruation included in Pakistan’s school textbooks, Aurat Raaj has come a long way, Khalid says.

Rather than treating periods as a matter of shame, she and 30 field workers — so-called menstrual champions — spread their message about periods as a healthcare matter.

Aurat Raaj says it has reached at least 50,000 women through urban and rural campaigns, as well as podcasts and gatherings known as period parties.

Internet coverage in the region is patchy, so recorded messages in the native Sindhi language, rather than live content, are sent to the menstrual champions. These cover topics such as instructions on making sanitary pads with locally available cloth and the sanitisation of pads for reuse.

For Shaiwana Nasir, a menstrual champion based in Sukkur, 350km north-east of the port city of Karachi, making inroads into communities is a gradual process. “It’s a sensitive subject. People became offended when they were first approached,” she says.

The other challenge was the low level of smartphone ownership among women in the roughly 50 villages in Nasir’s area of responsibility. “We had to first convince village elders that this was an essential service. Once we gained acceptability, we were able to enrol local women in our sessions,” she says.

Each menstrual champion sets aside a room, typically in their home, where women gather to hear audio messages and participate in group discussions.

Breaking taboos around menstruation in rural Sindh has been difficult, because of the deeply conservative values many residents hold. Similarly, on matters of sex and birth control, the challenge was evident at a clinic in Karachi, where a doctor saw a woman in her mid-twenties who was in her seventh pregnancy in as many years of marriage to a truck driver.

The couple and their six children live in a two-room slum in Lyari, one of Karachi’s poorest neighbourhoods, where waterborne infections and other ailments are rife. “I told [the patient] that her life will be in danger [if she has more children], but it’s the same reply as I have heard from other patients — the husband doesn’t agree,” the doctor says.

The challenge of discussing sex-related issues is greatest among Pakistan’s uneducated poor — almost one-third of the population lives below the poverty line — but women from middle- and upper-income households also face obstacles in accessing such information. “In many homes, irrespective of their income level, women are under pressure to have more children,” the doctor adds. “The ideal of a two-child home is disregarded because families and husbands insist on large families.”

Khalid, however, remains optimistic. Although the Covid-19 pandemic forced Aurat Raaj to scale back meetings last year, the platform has since returned to its regular schedule, and the number of menstrual champions is set to rise to 100 in Sindh. Khalid is also hoping to expand Aurat Raaj’s services into Punjab province, which is home to some 60 per cent of the country’s population, and to send out its messages in local languages such as Punjabi and Pushto.