Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy(Urdu: شرمین عبید چنائے; born 12 November 1978) is a Pakistanijournalist, filmmaker and activist. She is known for her work in films that highlight the inequality with women. She is the recipient of two Academy Awards, six Emmy Awards and a Lux Style Award. In 2012, the Government of Pakistan honoured her with the Hilal-i-Imtiaz, the second highest civilian honour of the country, and Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world.
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy was born in Karachi in 1978. She did her early schooling at the Convent of Jesus and Mary, and subsequently went on to study at Karachi Grammar School. Later she studied mass communications at Stanford University in the US, where she received her bachelor's degree in economics and government from Smith College in 2002. She returned to Pakistan and launched her career as a filmmaker with her first film Terror's Children for The New York Times. In 2003 and 2004 she made two award-winning films while a graduate student at Stanford University. Her most notable films includes, the animated adventure 3 Bahadur (2015), the musical journey Song of Lahore (2015) and the two Academy Award-winning films, the documentary Saving Face (2012) and the biographical A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2016). Her visual contributions have earned her numerous awards, including two Academy Awards in the Best Short Subject in 2012 and 2016 and two Emmy Awards in the same category in 2010 and 2011.
Obaid-Chinoy has also won six Emmy Awards, including two of which are in the International Emmy Award for Current Affairs Documentary category for the films, the terrorist drama Pakistan's Taliban Generation and the documentary Saving Face (2012) Throughout her career, she has made many records, her Academy Award win for Saving Face made her the first Pakistani to win an Academy Award, and she is one of only eleven female directors who have ever won an Oscar for a non-fiction film. She is also the first non-American to win the Livingston Award for Young Journalists. The 2015 animated adventure 3 Bahadur made her the first Pakistani to make a computer-animated feature-length film. In 2017, Obaid-Chinoy became the first artist to co-chair the World Economic Forum.
Early life and background
Obaid-Chinoy was born on 12 November 1978 in Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan. Her father, Sheikh Obaid, was a businessman, who died in 2010, and her mother, Saba Obaid, is a social worker. She has a younger sister, Mahjabeen Obaid. Obaid-Chinoy attended Convent of Jesus and Mary, followed by schooling at Karachi Grammar School (in the same class as Kumail Nanjiani). According to her, she wasn't inclined toward academics though received good grades. Obaid-Chinoy then moved to the United States for higher education. Upon moving, she studied at the Smith College, from where she completed her bachelor's degree in journalism in 2002. After graduating from the Smith College, she enrolled herself at the Stanford University for a double master's degree in International Policy Studies and Communication, which she received in 2004, during this period, she developed a passion for filmmaking, and made two award-winning short films simultaneously.
After graduating from Smith College in 2002, she returned to Pakistan, and launched her career as a filmmaker with her first film Terror's Children for The New York Times. In 2003 and 2004 she made two award-winning films while a graduate student at Stanford University. She then began a long association with the PBS TV series Frontline World, where she reported "On a Razor's Edge" in 2004 and went on over the next 5 years to produce many broadcast reports, online videos and written "Dispatches" from Pakistan. Her most notable films include Children of the Taliban, The Lost Generation, Afghanistan Unveiled, 3 Bahadur, Song of Lahore and the Academy Award-winning Saving Face and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness. Her visual contributions have earned her numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Short Subject Documentary (2012 and 2016) and the Emmy Award in the same category (2010 and 2011) and the One World Media Award for Broadcast Journalist of the Year (2007). Her films have been aired on several international channels, including the PBS, CNN, Discovery Channel, Al Jazeera English and Channel 4.
Obaid-Chinoy has also won six Emmy Awards, including two in the International Emmy Award for Current Affairs Documentary category for the films Pakistan's Taliban Generation and Saving Face. Her Academy Award win for Saving Face made her the first Pakistani to win an Academy Award, and she is one of only 11 female directors who have ever won an Oscar for a non-fiction film. She is also the first non-American to win the Livingston Award for Young Journalists. The 2015 animated adventure 3 Bahadur made her the first Pakistani to make a computer-animated feature-length film.
In 2007, she helped found the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, whose projects center around the preservation of Pakistan's cultural and social heritage. She also serves as the Ambassador for Blood Safety for Pakistan's national blood safety program. Obaid-Chinoy is a TED Fellow and the recipient of the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, the second highest civilian award in Pakistan.Time magazine named Sharmeen in its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world for 2012.
On 23 March 2012, Pakistan's president conferred the highest civilian award, the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, on Obaid-Chinoy for bringing honor to Pakistan as a filmmaker. Sharmeen was ranked 37th on Desiclub.com's list of the 50 Coolest Desis of 2009.
In 2012, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy released the 5-part series Ho Yaqeen (To Believe). In 2014, SOC Films released the 6-part series I Heart Karachi. On April 19, 2015, Song of Lahore, directed and produced by her and Andy Schocken, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival and was the Runner Up to the Tribeca Audience Choice Award. In September 2015, Broad Green Pictures acquired the U.S distribution rights to Song of Lahore announcing the release of the film in select cinemas in the U.S. In October 2015 the film was submitted for consideration in the documentary feature category for the 2016 Oscars by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.Song of LahoreEuropean premiere was at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA) from 18 to 29 November 2015. The film had its Middle Eastern premiere at the 12th Annual Dubai International Film Festival in December 2015.
On the 20th of May, 2016 Song of Lahore was released in select cinemas across New York City and Los Angeles. The cinematic release was accompanied by the release of the official soundtrack which features collaborations with artists such as Wynton Marsalis and Meryl Streep.
On May 22, 2015, Pakistan's first animated movie, 3 Bahadur, directed by Obaid-Chinoy, a film dedicated to inculcating bravery in the youth of Pakistan, was released by Waadi Animations. The heroes of the film, Amna, Kamil and Saadi were highly anticipated, and despite being shown on only 50 screens in Pakistan, 3 Bahadur became Pakistan's highest grossing animated movie of all time, earning Rs 6.5 million and defeating the record set by Rio 2.3 Bahadur also screened at the Montreal Film Festival in Canada, in August 2015.
On September 11, 2015, Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers Obaid-Chinoy's feature documentary, co-directed and produced with Geeta Gandbhir, screened at the Toronto International Film Festival 2015 for its North American premiere. The film follows the journey of three Bangladeshi women soldiers who are deployed to Haiti as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission. The film premiered at the Mumbai Film Festival on 29 October 2015 for its Asian premiere and played at the DOC NYC Festival in November 2015.
On 17 February 2016, the film screened at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City as part of a discussion of women and peacekeeping. The event was moderated by Stefen Feller, UN Police Adviser and was attended by a full house, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh, Masud Bin Momen. The documentary won the Humanitarian Award at the RiverRun International Film Festival on April 21, 2016 and also won the at the Bentonville Film Festival, dated 7 May 2016.
On 15 February 2016, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy met with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad to discuss the measures required to plug the loopholes in the law which allow the perpetrators of honour killings to walk free. On the 22nd of February 2016, the first screening of A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness was held at the Prime Minister's Secretariat in Islamabad, opened by remarks made by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself - concerning the amendments needed to prevent honour killings from occurring in Pakistan.
On the 28 February 2016, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness won her a second Oscar for Best Documentary, Short Subject at the 88th Academy Awards. This is the first Oscar win for her film company SOC Films and the second Oscar for Obaid-Chinoy as Director. Later in 2017, the documentary also bagged an International Emmy Award for Best Documentary.
Her commercial venture "Sulagta Sitara" is a documentary series which was released on ARY Digital in 2016. The series share the stories of cities in Pakistan which have experienced hardship, but still manage to shine bright through the darkness.
In January 2017 Obaid-Chinoy was invited to speak at the 47th World Economic Forum, and became the first ever artist to co-chair the WEF's annual meeting.This took place between 17 - 20th January, 2017, under the theme “Responsive and Responsible Leadership”. The meeting convened more than 2,500 participants from nearly 100 countries to take part in over 300 sessions. On being the first artist and Pakistani to co-chair the annual meeting Obaid-Chinoy said: “It is a great honour to be the first artist ever to be given the opportunity to co-chair the prestigious World Economic Forum at Davos in 2017. I have always believed that the true mark of any thriving society is the amount of investment made in its cultural and artistic infrastructure. There is, now, an increasing recognition of the fact that business and economics must go hand-in-hand with culture and arts for society to move forward and it is with great pride that I will be representing both the art community and my country, Pakistan!”
From 1st - 9th July 2017 a new work by Obaid-Chinoy - Home 1947 - was inaugurated at the Manchester International Festival. The immersive installation centres on a series of short films featuring families in India and Pakistan, who were among more than 10 million people displaced by Partition. The films see ‘home’ through the eyes of migrants who left their homes and never returned – ‘home’ as a physical place, but also as a concept, an ideal, a shared tradition.The exhibition then travelled to Mumbai in August, where it formed part of the Museum of Memories at Godrej India Culture Lab. The Pakistan premiere of Home 1947 took place in October 2017 at the Heritage Now festival in Lahore, before transferring, most recently, to Karachi in December 2017 where the exhibition managed to attract over 16,000 visitors.
In November 2017 Obaid Chinoy was awarded the 2017 Knight International Journalism Award, by the International Center for Journalists [ICFJ] in Washington, DC. The award recognises Chinoy’s efforts to chronicle the human toll of extremism that have made a major impact. “At great personal risk, Obaid-Chinoy and al Masri faced terrorism head on, getting behind the scenes to chronicle untold abuses,” said ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan. The Knight International Journalism Award by the ICFJ recognises media professionals who demonstrate a passionate commitment to excellent reporting that makes a difference in the lives of people around the world. For 2017, the recipients include Chinoy, whose work and efforts in highlighting the loophole on the practice of honour killing in Pakistan led to a legislative change in Pakistan.
Her most recent work, Look But With Love, released on the Within app, is Pakistan’s first virtual reality documentary series focusing on the people of Pakistan who are striving to change the socio-political landscape of their communities through causes they are passionate
Awards and nominations
HOME 1947 https://www.thenews.com.pk/magazine/instep-today/212473-Sharmeen-Obaid-Chinoys-Home-1947-remembers-partition
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It became the surprise success of the Oscars. Saving Face, a documentary about the true cost of the deliberate disfigurement of women in Pakistan, attracted worldwide attention, and not just for lifting the veil on a hitherto little-known world. Its director, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, also became the first person from Pakistan to win an Oscar.
The success of the documentary, which will have its UK premiere at the Human Rights Watch film festival on 28 March, also put the spotlight on Pakistan's fledgling film industry, which has recently emerged from the shadows of the behemoth that is its Indian neighbour, Bollywood. Several Pakistani films have received international acclaim, including last year's transsexual-son drama Bol and the country's much-anticipated first ever English-language film, Waar, about the "war on terror".
Speaking to the Guardian, Chinoy said: "It's an indescribable feeling. I am humbled and honoured that my work has received such acclaim. This has reinforced my belief that hard work and dedication will be appreciated at the highest level. I had the opportunity to meet actors and directors that I grew up with. We gave copies of Saving Face to Brad Pitt and George Clooney, and it was incredible to meet them on an equal footing, and that too while representing Pakistan."
Karachi-born Chinoy is no stranger to bringing controversial issues to the screen. She was the first journalist to be allowed to film in Saudi Arabia about its fledgling women's rights movement, and also directed a documentary about Pakistan's transgender community, which was shown on Channel 4.
She became involved in Saving Face after being approached by co-director Daniel Junge, who was inspired by an interview with British plastic surgeon Mohammad Jawad, whose mercy mission from London's Harley Street to his homeland to perform free reconstructive surgery on victims is featured in the documentary.
"I was immediately drawn to the subject matter, and thought that Daniel and I would work well together," said Chinoy. "By making Saving Face, I realised that acid violence exists in a cultural context, and that the narrative doesn't end when the attack occurs."
Statistics make the plight of women in Pakistan far from comfortable reading. A survey by Trust Law ranked Pakistan the third most dangerous place for women in the world, after the Democratic Republic of the Congo and Afghanistan. According to the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, nearly 700 women were victims of honour killings in the period between 2009-2010, and 90% of women have been victims of domestic violence – of which acid attacks are one of the most extreme forms. Cases such as the gang rape of Mukhtaran Mai (most of whose alleged attackers were freed) have exposed the difficulties faced by women fighting for justice in Pakistan.
In fact, one of the most shocking aspects of the documentary is the role of women in perpetrating violence against other women. This is illustrated by the case of Rukhsana, one of the women portrayed in the film, a happily married mother of two who was attacked by her in-laws. Poverty forced her to return to live with them, and she was only able to see her children from behind a wall.
"In 2007, I travelled to Afghanistan to make a film called Lifting the Veil. I met a number of women who had kerosene thrown on them by female in-laws. I learned early on that woman-on-woman violence does occur in certain parts of the world," says Chinoy. "Such occurrences are difficult to digest. However, one has to address this issue within the cultural context: woman-on-woman acid violence is more about power than gender. It's painful, as one would assume that women would help other women."
However, Chinoy finds the positive in the stories she tells. Despite its harrowing subject matter, she describes Saving Face as a feelgood story, focusing on the courage of the victims and the strength of those who help them. "Violence against women is strongly condemned in the media, education and legal system in Pakistan. Many organisations are actively engaged in bettering the lives of women, and experiencing tremendous results."
Chinoy believes that being a woman in Pakistan is far from the hopeless situation that is often portrayed, and considers herself an example of the potential of women in her homeland. "I grew up in Karachi, a booming, diverse city that offers many opportunities and avenues for exploration. While growing up, I never felt like my upbringing was different than it would be had I grown up anywhere else in the world. I have never been discriminated against due to my gender in Pakistan.
"Pakistani women are able to vote, drive and travel at will, which isn't the case in Saudi Arabia and Kuwait. Pakistani women are also running large businesses, and many universities boast a higher number of female students than male. Although there are many Pakistani women who cannot enjoy these liberties, there are many who do. It's our responsibility to bridge that gap."
•Saving Face is screened at the Human Rights Watch film festival on 28-29 March, and will also be broadcast on Channel 4 in April.