Lost in the diversity controversy at the Oscars Sunday night was this: The only woman of color who won was Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy.
Who? That’s the problem. Very few people in America know who she is. But they ought to.
Obaid-Chinoy, 37, has two Academy Awards to her name; her latest was in the best documentary short category for “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, a haunting portrayal of honor killings in Obaid-Chinoy’s ancestral Pakistan.
The film tells the story of Saba, 19, who is beaten, shot and tossed into a river because she eloped with a man her family rejected. Saba is a rare survivor of honor violence and Obaid-Chinoy’s film explores in the bleakest way the physical and emotional pain that so many women in that part of the world suffer.
“She wanted her story told,” Obaid-Chinoy said in a CBCinterview. “The impact of her story is tremendous, because it is going to change lives, and it’s going to save lives, and there can be no greater reward than that.”
Obaid-Chinoy, a journalist turned documentarian, has focused her life’s work on social justice and feels compelled to expose wrongdoing in her homeland. Because, she says, it doesn’t have to be that way.
“A Girl in the River” prompted Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to pledge that he would change a barbaric law that lets perpetrators of honor crimes go unprosecuted.
“”This is what happens when determined women get together,” she said with her golden statue in hand. “This week, the Pakistani prime minister has said that he will change the law on honor killing after watching this film. That is the power of film.”
Obaid-Chinoy dedicated her accolade to Saba and to all the women who helped her make the film and also to the men who champion women.
Obaid-Chinoy’s acceptance speech was the most powerful Sunday night, though, ironically, it got drowned by the noise of diversity jokes and the buzz over Leo.
But she was the real stuff. Here was a brown Muslim woman totally rockin’ it. She hails from a part of the world where the most barbaric practices against women still exist, and that made Obaid-Chinoy’s win even more worthwhile.
Go, Sharmeen, I yelled in front of the TV. You make desi women proud.
Check out her work here: http://sharmeenobaidfilms.com/