ISLAMABAD — The film “Saving Face,” which took home the Oscar for best documentary short subject Sunday night, highlighted revenge acid attacks against women in Pakistan. But it was widely lauded in a society that often bristles at criticism from outsiders.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani bestowed a national award on co-director Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, who is the country's first filmmaker to win an Academy Award. President Asif Ali Zardari applauded her for “bringing laurels to the country...and sending a message to the world,” the official Associated Press of Pakistan said.
The film highlighted a “sensitive topic,” the president said, but took a positive approach by showing the work of a compassionate Pakistani surgeon and the dedication of women's advocates fighting the problem.
One Islamabad woman, Meher Naqvi, said she was so overjoyed when the award was announced that she ran to tell the news to her husband, while he was shaving.
“It's a matter of pride for Pakistan and the women of Pakistan,” she said. “It creates such a level of awareness people will feel about [acid attacks] and they will reach out to the victims.”
The Oscar came in a category that rarely captures attention beyond a subset of filmmakers. But for many Pakistanis, the award became a point of national pride akin to a cricket victory — but much more socially significant.
“It's a great day for Pakistan,” said Amjad Abbasi, an Islamabad restaurant manager. “I really appreciate it.”
Shah Sharahbeel, who runs a theater company, was less enthusiastic about the honor as he discussed the news with actors at an upscale coffee shop. “It's awesome, it's amazing, but it belittles Pakistan,” he said. “And anything that belittles Pakistan will get attention, especially in the Western world, especially in the U.S.”
Others savored Chinoy's Oscar win because it represented a rare piece of good news in an insurgency-wracked nation often equated with terrorism.
“The whole nation is proud of her,” TV host Sofia Jamal said on her evening talk show, “and in fact she has written a new chapter in Pakistan's history, giving the message to the world that still there are people here who are struggling for the betterment of society.”
Special correspondent Shaiq Hussain also contributed to this story.