Delighted Pakistani newspapers yesterday fell over themselves to praise the young femael director who brought joy to the troubled, al-Qaeda-hit nation by winning the country’s first ever Oscar.
Pictures of 33-year-old Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy collecting her statuette in Hollywood were splashed across the front pages of every paper with headlines such as “Sharmeen brings Oscar glory to Pakistan” and “Take a bow Sharmeen.”
She won in the short documentary category with her film Saving Face about survivors of acid attacks and British Pakistani plastic surgeon Mohammad Jawad, who returned to his homeland to help restore their faces and lives.
Liberal English-language daily the Express Tribune, which is based in Obaid-Chinoy’s home city of Karachi, called her win a victory and expressed hope that she will become “the face of a more liberal and tolerant Pakistan.”
“Unlike politicians in our country who spend billions to improve Pakistan’s image in the international community, she has done so by her talent and hard work,” it said.
The Oscar was “a boost for film-makers throughout Pakistan as it shows the talent that is present here,” but the paper also highlighted the need for much “soul-searching and reflection” on how to counter violence against women.
Pakistan’s oldest English-language newspaper, Dawn, said Obaid-Chinoy’s Oscar was a welcome break from the usual foreign coverage of Pakistan that focuses on al-Qaeda, the Taliban, poverty, corruption and nuclear weapons.
“Seeing Pakistan being talked about in such a positive context in the international press makes for a welcome change, prone as the country is to being discussed for myriad errors of omission and commission,” it said.
The Urdu-language press was also full of praise.
“It seems like a dream to a Pakistani film to get the Oscar but Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy has made it possible,” Nawa-e-Waqt wrote in a special, color supplement published to celebrate the win.
“The whole of Pakistan prayed for her and impatiently waited for the award ceremony. Her victory made every Pakistani happy,” the paper said. “She has done a wonderful job.”
However, the English-language the News sounded a note of caution, remarking that: “Although the award is a matter of personal and national pride, its content is a matter of national shame.”
“Pakistan is reportedly the third-most dangerous country in the world for women after Afghanistan and the Democratic Republic of Congo,” it said. “What is more important is that Chinoy’s effort holds up a mirror to us for critical self-examination.”