We need to change the conversation about Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy. Here's how.

The concept that a 'positive image' of Pakistan can and should exist is flawed. So is a whole lot more.
Updated 02 Mar, 2016

Amid celebrations of Sharmeen Obaid's landmark win at the 88th Academy Awards a significant number of opposing voices emerged to trot out an opinion we've long had to endure: that Sharmeen and her filmmaking are doing damage to Pakistan.

These are not fringe voices, which is why it's important to address them. Prominent politicians, commentators and artists have offered up critiques on Sharmeen's work.

This backlash against Sharmeen may appear uniform but it's not. Two very different critiques emerge.

The first claims Sharmeen's films only highlight Pakistan's failings and don't do enough to promote positive developments at home. Implicit in this is that these films shame us and sully Pakistan's good name. Case in point, Shireen Mazari's tweet that a 'positive reflection of Pakistan' should also feature in a documentary. A comment on this very website also exemplifies this point of view: "All documentaries she [Sharmeen] makes highlight the negative facets of Pakistan... Bad people and bad traditions are prevalent everywhere in the world. She isn't making any difference except portraying a poor image of Pakistan."

The second critique, while it may appear to be directed towards Sharmeen, is in truth more about the nature of foreign media's interest in Pakistan. By way of an example, we can look at Shah Sharahbeel's comment that we'll forever be waiting for a day when we "see such awards given to movies made on the victims of drone attacks." Here's another comment on this website: "The west will never give her an Oscar if she works on a positive image of Pakistan."

I'm sick of all this Sharmeen bashing. But we can only change the conversation about Sharmeen and her films when we understand where all the vitriol comes from and separate what is truly spurious from what might be valid criticism.

Why the current narrative is all wrong

To begin, let's look at criticism offered up by the first camp — people who say making documentaries about practices like acid-burning and honour killing does damage to Pakistan's 'positive image' abroad.

This argument is outdated and frankly, just plain irrelevant. Here's why.

These critiques just don't stand anymore.
These critiques just don't stand anymore.

First off, the concept that a wholly 'positive' image or narrative of Pakistan can and should exist is flawed.

It reflects only our limited capacity to imagine a world that exists beyond neat binaries, beyond distinct divisions between good and bad, piety and faithlessness, patriotism and open sedition. It is borne of a gross failure of imagination, which leads to us being unable to digest the idea that creative endeavour — any compelling story, really — is the product of both light and dark, struggle and perseverance.

The concept that a wholly 'positive' image or narrative of Pakistan can and should exist is flawed. It is borne of our limited capacity to imagine a world that exists beyond neat binaries, beyond distinct divisions between good and bad, piety and faithlessness, patriotism and open sedition.

To people who can't see A Girl in the River as anything except a negative portrayal of Pakistan, I'd say: alter your perspective. It's not just an exposé of our very-real penchant for honour-killing women — it's also a compelling story of survival. And in that, right there — that's your positive representation of Pakistan, personified in a shalwar kameez-clad girl of 18 who refused to die quietly in a river.

Second, it is not a documentary filmmaker's primary function to represent his or her country in the best light possible. That's what the foreign office is for, or the tourism department, or, dare I say it — the cricket team. A documentary filmmaker's job, at its most basic level, is to represent and explore an issue of his or her choosing truthfully and accurately.

Newsflash: we're all on the same side! The government just disavowed honour killing! Arguments that make divisions or differentiate between Sharmeen's filmmaking and our own efforts to stamp out practices like honour-killing are basically moot.

Even so, I'm willing to concede that a filmmaker of Sharmeen's stature is somewhat of an ambassador of Pakistan, and so doesn't have the luxury of remaining indifferent to our expectations to promote feel-good stories from Pakistan.

But even by that standard, you can argue Sharmeen and her team have done their part. Remember Songs of Lahore, a film Sharmeen directed about a group of Pakistani musicians travelling the world to celebrate classical music? Or 3 Bahadur, an animated film aimed at a young audience? Clearly, some effort is being made to address a broad range of issues concerning Pakistan. That these documentaries are not of great interest to either ourselves or a western audience indicates a systemic problem, which, by its very nature, can't be righted by a sole individual or a one-off documentary. More on this later.

Third, I'd argue that a filmmaker can't be accused of portraying their country negatively (ie. actively working against the public interest) once the state has given that filmmaker sanction and support.

Can we really say Sharmeen's pushing a 'negative agenda'... when the government now supports her?
Can we really say Sharmeen's pushing a 'negative agenda'... when the government now supports her?

And this is exactly what's happened with Sharmeen's A Girl in the River. Just a week ago Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif invited Sharmeen to the PM House to screen the documentary, after which he said honour killing is reprehensible and that Chinoy's “insights” could prove helpful.

Call it savvy PR by the government, call it connections — but the fact is, in issuing this statement the government has made itself accountable to the people. We are now free to ask the state how much progress it's made in drafting legislation that ends honour killing. This documentary has made tangible gains in advocacy and benefited all of us.

So, in case you missed it, newsflash: we're all on the same side! The government just disavowed honour killing! Arguments that make divisions or differentiate between Sharmeen's filmmaking and our own efforts to stamp out practices like honour-killing are basically moot. Move on.

Fourth, saying that Sharmeen shouldn't broadcast problems like honour killing to a western audience and should instead work locally to fix/shed light on issues reveals to us only our own hypocrisy and childish yearning for approval from a white audience.

Let's just admit it: we have a twisted relationship with western media houses. We hate them for stereotyping us yet we don't consider our achievements valid unless they're covered by CNN or BBC or The New York Times. Why should Sharmeen raise issues locally if local coverage won't lead to real change?

How does it do this? Well, it's the nature of the Pakistani public and its government to not take issues seriously — rape, racketeering, children getting shot by the Taliban — until a western media house or government takes notice of it first. When in the past have we come out to support an issue until it took off in international media?

Let's just admit it: we have a twisted relationship with western media houses. We hate them for stereotyping us yet we don't consider our achievements — or problems — valid unless they're covered by CNN or BBC or The New York Times. You know this is mostly true. Would Axact have been raided if it weren't for that story in The New York Times? Would the Prime Minister have issued a statement on honour killing if Sharmeen hadn't made it to the Oscars? We want our activists to resolve problems locally, in only the local media, but we refuse to take notice on issues highlighted in that very local media. Why should Sharmeen raise issues locally if local coverage won't lead to real change?

If we really want Sharmeen to stop talking about uncomfortable truths abroad we have to a) get rid of our predilection to only take news seriously if it receives sanction and approval 'from abroad' b) start taking action on stories highlighted by local media.

From the all of the above, I think its safe to say all talk of Pakistan's 'positive image' and Sharmeen's role in dismantling it needs a major overhaul.

So what should our new conversation about Sharmeen look like?

Let's revisit the second critique levelled against Sharmeen — that her documentaries only get attention because they highlight 'negative' aspects of Pakistani culture. When people say this, I think what they really intend to criticise is not Sharmeen, but western media houses and arts organizations that very selectively extend their patronage to non-mainstream voices.

These critiques are more about institutional bias in western media houses
These critiques are more about institutional bias in western media houses

Recast, this criticism is valid. What with all the talk — and evidence — that the Oscars are not the most transparent or equitable of awards I think it would be obvious that even the most well-known western media-arts complexes are fraught with prejudice. Case in point: Sharmeen's documentary Songs of Lahore showed abroad, including a screening at the Tribeca Film Festival, but it didn't generate any Oscar-worthy buzz. Case in point: actors of colour were grossly underrepresented at the Oscars this year. Case in point: a lack of gender and racial diversity in upper management in media house and boardrooms the world over.

In this context, is it impossible to imagine that a western audience finds a story about honour killing more interesting than one on Karachi's new mall? No.

Foreign media abroad is invested in certain narratives about Pakistan, and those narrative do not necessarily represent us in all our complexity.

Seen against this backdrop, if Sharmeen is guilty of anything it's of being astute enough to recognize that she can't win every battle in the west — she can only win some. She has adroitly worked the system (which in itself is a huge achievement) to expose whatever truths she can and has done good in the process.

Foreign media is invested in certain narratives about Pakistan, and those narrative do not necessarily represent us in all our complexity. Seen against this backdrop, if Sharmeen is guilty of anything it's of being astute enough to recognize that she can't win every battle in the west — she can only win some.

Can she help change the global conversation about Pakistan and move western media towards treating our stories with greater empathy and nuance? Probably, yes. But she won't be able to do it alone. We need to do our part, and that includes strengthening local media, giving local productions, screenings and awards more credit, and generally being less touchy about the fact that western media houses operate keeping only their own audience in mind, not ours.

What I mean is, our conversation needs to focus on how to dismantle institutional bias in the western media. Bashing Sharmeen is not an effective route to counter this bias.

If we really want to offer Sharmeen and her team constructive criticism now, post second Oscar-win — we need to raise the caliber and alter the context of our arguments.

Here are my suggestions: how about we critique her work's artistic merit or factual accuracy? Or the fact that her documentaries are not widely screened in Pakistan?

So what should we talk about if we want to offer Sharmeen constructive criticism? Ideas: let's discuss the ethics of documentary film-making, or the question of access and privilege.

Valid also are debates on the ethics of documentary film-making, about how the powerless and the powerful interact in these arenas and who benefits, and how much.

Plausible also is that we might recast discussions about Sharmeen to feature talk of economic and social privilege. By this I mean it's not off the mark to wonder why Sharmeen's documentary on honour killing made it to the Oscars while other locally-made documentaries did not. If we're lucky, when we talk about how Sharmeen is privileged in certain ways that other filmmakers may not be, we'll understand how class divides and a subsequent lack of opportunity might be holding talented people back.

In this way, if you disagree with Sharmeen's work you'll at least have some weight behind your argument.

Follow the writer on Twitter or find her bio here.


Dawn Mar 01, 2016 05:18pm
I need to ask all the critics Why have they given Best film award to "the Spotlight"
Numair Mar 01, 2016 05:27pm
I am proud of her as a Pakistani ! I would like to see her critics bring about ANY degree of positive change before they criticize some else who is improving Pakistan. We need every woman in Pakistan to be a Sharmen in order to rise up from the corruption, terrorism and lawlessness that is commonplace in Pakistan .
Farhan Mar 01, 2016 05:33pm
No matter how hard you try, fact remains that the west has a certain negative and biased narrative about Pakistan and the western media by and large only entertains those stories which reinforce and propogate that established narrative. So everything which is negative is lapped up and celebrated and pretty much everything positive is ignored. This is a fact which we experience on a daily basis and it is safe to assume that our 'intellectuals' are also acutely aware of it. There is no glory in pandering to this agenda. But we are so enamoured by glamorous western labels - the Oscars, the Grammys - that we fail to see the intellectual dishonesty and naked self-interest of people like Ms Chinoy. Let Ms. Chinoy tell a posiive story about Pakistani women for a change - and there's no shortage of such women in Pakistan - and I would be the first to applaud her when she walks the red carpet.
Baber Gul Mar 01, 2016 05:41pm
Sharmeen is not alone here. We had a world renowned Pakistani scientist who was treated even worse. Whatever good he wanted to do for Pakistan and the betterment of education, he was rebuffed and insulted time again relentlessly by the successive governments that came to power. Even mention a little praise of him in TV chat shows, the subject is dropped instantly since it causes a great deal of embarrassment and red faces among the invited guests.
Syed Mar 01, 2016 05:44pm
Truth is always bitter.
Rao Mar 01, 2016 05:54pm
I hope Sharmeen will produce more plays, and movies about the curse of these social evils in Pakistan , India and elsewhere in S. Asia. She would inspire other writers , reformers etc.
Saad Mar 01, 2016 05:58pm
To all people out there crying on Sharmeen's fame, they are nothing but jealous. I classify such people in the category of those who say all against the West but are the first one to stand in queue for the US visa. It's high time that we should get out of this hypocrisy and appreciate our talent, whether Malala or Sharmeen. Besides whoever is going gaga about positives of Pakistan should get a reality check, negatives outnumbers the positives in this country, let's accept our shortcoming and recognize the problem rather than burying things under the carpet in the name of country positive image. Not all people gets the glory despite the efforts but that's just fate, at least who are getting it we should be happy for them. Go girls you make Pakistan proud! Pakistan Zindabad!
Indian Wolfie Mar 01, 2016 05:59pm
Congratulations to Sharmeen Chinoy for winning another oscar for her country but she can use better subjects other than domestic violence (which is a global problem that woman face) such as idolising and highlightening the woman of Pakistan that have help build her country. Instead of hopping on the western narrative that these problems only happen in South Asia. Would the oscar selection panel even tolerate a documentray of school shootings and Police brutality against Americans and racial profiling happening in the US?
Raja Farhat Abbas Mar 01, 2016 06:03pm
@Farhan Very well said.
immo Mar 01, 2016 06:05pm
She would have gotten an Oscar if she had made a film like this about Iranian, Afghan, Saudi, Yemeni women. But no one would have known her name if she had made same film about the same issues in India, Israel, America and Europe. Moral of the story you show them what they want to see and you will get an Oscar just like Malala's book
concerned_m Mar 01, 2016 06:17pm
What did it bring the country? nothing. We should focus on our image as a nation not on personal achievements. What she has done serves her best and less for Pak. We have enough self critical intellectuals here who suffocate us even further. This Oscar may bring sanctions not glory!
Umair Mar 01, 2016 06:23pm
Thats our history! thats what we do with our heroes either it is Dr. Abdus salaam or Malala yousafzai or Sharmeen, its sad but true we are just not ready to face the ugly stains on the face of our society.
Imran AB Mar 01, 2016 06:32pm
Well done Sharmeen, thank you for making us proud and I apologize on behalf of all these people who criticize you. Thank you for raising the awareness till the office of the Prime Minister and a lot of girls will owe their lives to you for saving them by making this film.
Saima Mar 01, 2016 06:33pm
It's an irony that we cannot celebrate any good things that comes to Pakistan. Sharmeen is pride of Pakistan. She portrayed the truth, we should have the courage to see the reality . The positives do not need to be highlighted, it is felt in the environment. Unfortunately, the ills have prevailed our society. So critics, let us be proud of her and you in the meanwhile except the dark realities of our society.
Faisal Mar 01, 2016 06:38pm
@Farhan We need to stop crying about the big bad "West". This movie is about a brave Pakistani woman and it has brought awareness and change. What more do you want. We need to talk about the dark aspects of our traditions and not try to hide the facts. Of course Western audiences find these movies fascinating, they don't have acid attacks or honour killings in their societies. We have several ills in our society and by denying or hiding the negative and only highlighting the positive doesn't help Pakistan mere bhai.
Fatima Mar 01, 2016 06:41pm
I think Sharmeen's documentaries should be screened, I mean we have our local cinema showing baseless Bollywood movies, but they don't have space to screen films that actually cover the truth. Teen Bahadur was a hit and U believe after Sharmeen's win, there will br more crowd to see her work. I have seearched for her documentaries online for download but they're not available.
Human Mar 01, 2016 07:07pm
Great job Sharmeen.
Lakhkar Khan Mar 01, 2016 08:00pm
You have to acknowledge the problem first in order to fix it and that is what she did. She put the spotlight on problems like Acid attacks and honor killings in Pakistan. Thank you Shermeen Obaid Chinoy. You make the country proud.
ali Mar 01, 2016 08:00pm
you have written an excellent analysis..i absolutely agree with you
Mastang Mar 01, 2016 08:01pm
Well done sharmeen, you are barve
Lakhkar Khan Mar 01, 2016 08:04pm
@immo Hiding your faults is not patriotism, it is a coward way out. Acid attacks and honor killing is a menace in Pakistan and they have to be addressed. Grow up and face the music.
Sadia Mar 01, 2016 08:22pm
So proud of you Sharmeen
KnowTheTruth Mar 01, 2016 08:25pm
" When in the past, when have we come out to support an issue until it took off in international media?" Absolutely true, and the aXact episode proves it beyond denial ! Secondly, why blame Sharmeen for depicting a poor image of the country? She is only showing the reality, and not cooking up a feel good story.
Mar 01, 2016 08:41pm
@Farhan This is a positive story about a woman, an 18-year-old who was shot in the face, survived and took her own father to court - how is that not a positive image of a Pakistani woman. She was brave and stood up against the status-quo, she was not silenced.
Abdul Mar 01, 2016 08:59pm
V good analysis. Keep it up.
Ahsan Mar 01, 2016 09:16pm
Even one life save due to Sharmeen, It is saving whole humanily
Recommend Mar 01, 2016 09:42pm
Just incredible what Pakistani women have achieved. From Malala to Sharmeen. They have made us proud and represent a real hope/change for Pakistan. Forget the politics. Imagine the talent and vision it takes to create a documentary that achieves this kind of status. That too from a country where cinema halls are burnt to the ground. Kudos to Pakistani women!!!
Denali Mar 01, 2016 11:09pm
To all the critics of Ms. Obaid - truth is always bitter. Ms. Obaid is only bringing forward the ugly facts. One can bury one's head in the sand and move on. The same happened to Ms. Yousufzai when she won the Nobel Prize. At least both these ladies have the courage to speak up - unlike the cowards who continue to hide and ignore the truth to the detriment of those who are suffering. Congratulations Ms. Obaid for your courage.
farida Mar 01, 2016 11:22pm
We Pakistan did not even acknowledge Dr Abdul Salam who got first Nobel for us; then we were after Malala and not Sharmeen - when would be stop getting jealous and start appreciating other people work - India a country of 1 billion could not get Oscar and this women got it - Listen to her speech in which she acknowleged even our prime Minister
AXH Mar 02, 2016 12:42am
To all those who are relentlessly criticizing Sharmeen for promoting a "bad image" of Pakistan abroad, can you explain how Dr. Abdus Salam, a Nobel prize winner and a genius was treated by this nation?
Thoughtful Mar 02, 2016 03:07am
Pakistan has no positive image in the world. It is considered among 10 bottom most countries in the world (from standard of living to terrorism). The bogus concept of good image of Pakistan only lies in the minds of those who are far from reality. Sharmeen Obaid brings honor to Pakistan by highlighting the vices of a society hoping that one day these vices will be eliminated. One can only progress after knowing one's own weaknesses.
Nisha Walibhai Mar 02, 2016 03:46am
Speaking from the western corner of the world, Sharmeen's work is supporting anything but a negative image. It demonstrates how women in Pakistan are contributing in influencing undesirable practices. It is showing Pakistani women in a very positive light. We should be proud of Sharmeen and all adult male and female models who shaped Sharmeen's destiny to make such an impactful documentary. Unlimited kudos from a proud pakistani abroad!
Jawwad Mar 02, 2016 04:28am
@Farhan What is inherently negative is the criticism of Sharmeen;s award winning Documentary and not what she project in the movies. And as far the biased narrative of west towards Pakistan because it awards some credit to expose of our backwardness, one dos not have to go too far but examine the subject matter of the Oscar winning best movie "Spotlight". I suppose we will criticize if someone dare expose activities of our Mulanas under the roof of places of worship. Open and democratic societies praise as well as criticize what is wrong.
Zain Iqbal Mar 02, 2016 04:51am
I support this article. To those that attack Sharmeen for making a film exposing acid attacks, you completely miss the point. The problem is not with Sharmeen but with the law and order situation / the culture of the country. Pour acid on your own face. Maybe then you will see it is a real problem that needs to be fixed.
P.R.Koduri Mar 02, 2016 05:18am
Very well written and incisive analysis. Very much Dawn.
Saima Mar 02, 2016 05:46am
@Farhan ; Ms. Chinoy or Pakistan do not need any applause from you. It is heart breaking to read and hear people ridiculing our heroes. Let me tell you some thing, success and successful people do not need any popularity nor any documentary. The positives in our society albeit few, do not need attention, publicity or a documentary. It is reflected in people through their daily dealing, character, hard work and honesty. All positive virtues of society can be felt when you are amongst these successful people. Everything that is negative is ignored and brushed under the carpet and it takes a lot of courage to except the ills of our society. It would have been awesome that the honor killing bill had been passed long ago but see what a miracle the Oscars did! It has brought to light the plight of women who suffer the wrath of their families ultimately resulting in honor killings. Hopefully our legislative establishment will take some action in passing a law protecting the women of our Islamic society. Instead of criticizing the director of a documentary there should be condemnation of the culprits who indulge in behaviors that lead to "karo karee" (honor killing).
flipdlop Mar 02, 2016 08:12am
Well if she is bringing the negative activities that are happening in Pakistan in limelight then . What's wrong with it ? At least she got up and is spreading awareness. Why not someone from these critics get up and fill in the gap that is to show a positive side of Pakistan.
Alexander Mar 02, 2016 08:27am
Well written article.
Rao Mar 02, 2016 08:48am
Any Pakistani gets recognition in West, is targeted in the country....Abdus Salam, Malala Yousufzai, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy.....The list will continue in to the future till there is dramatic shift in Pakistani's attitudes.
Junaid Mar 02, 2016 08:57am
In the words of an accomplished poet: The players gonna play, play, play, play, play And the haters gonna hate, hate, hate, hate, hate Shake it off. Shake it off. ~ Taylor Swift PS: Best Picture was Spotlight. A movie about sexual abuse by Catholic priests in the US. West does not hate Pakistan. Pakistanis hate Pakistan.
Junaid Mar 02, 2016 09:01am
@Farhan The Best Picture was given to Spotlight, a movie about sexual abuse of children by Catholic priests in the US - not in Pakistan. I think your opinions are the result of a skewed and unrealistic positive view about our country. Pakistan has man flaws. If you want the country to be great, start dealing with its flaws head on and stop blaming the West.
Chris Roberts Mar 02, 2016 09:17am
@Farhan You should be very happy that this documentary resulted in these issues being taken very seriously by the Prime Minister of Pakistan himself. Would you have reacted in this way if your own mother, sister or daughter had been the victim(s) of such attacks? And by the way, HAVE YOU SEEN AMERICAN FILMMAKER MICHAEL MOORE'S ACCLAIMED DOCUMENTARIES EXPOSING ALL THE CORRUPTION AND HYPOCRISY IN HIS PART OF THE WORLD?
Syed Irfan Ali Mar 02, 2016 09:50am
Sharmeen has done a commendable job. Salute her on winning Academy Award twice and she is the only Oscar winner in the history of our country. She has done her part by showing us the mirror and it's up to the state to improve the image. Criticizing the mirror will serve no purpose. We should improve our image by making Zarb i Azb successful across the country and rooting out extremism from our land.
Witty Mar 02, 2016 10:37am
There is no honor in dishonoring your own country!
ace Mar 02, 2016 10:40am
Yes nobody likes to have their dirty laundry aired. But to all of you who are criticizing her what have you done to stop this problem. What have you contributed to Pakistani society to make it fair, clean, honest, dignified and well educated. Unless the truth is put out there it will always be someone else's problem. Now it is Pakistan's problem and time has come to do something about it.
Baber Khan Mar 02, 2016 10:50am
@Farhan "Let Ms. Chinoy tell a posive story about Pakistani women for a change - and there's no shortage of such women in Pakistan - and I would be the first to applaud her when she walks the red carpet." Quite right, Farhan! However, I doubt if any such positive story will catch your attention (let alone receive applause) unless, as the author so rightly points out, it ricochets back to us via western media!!
jawad Mar 02, 2016 11:08am
these are the people who have done nothing for Pakistan or to improve image of Pakistan but spending time on social media criticizing other people who are actually doing something to improve pakistan's image. Sharmeen Obaid Chinnoy keep doing what you are doing let the jealous people cry!
Zahid Akbar Mar 02, 2016 11:38am
Positive aspect is that a woman producer from Pakistan flourished at the top competitive level. Its a mirror for a totally polluted society stinking with the negative attitude of small pressure groups having street power and self oriented interests.
Bilal Mar 02, 2016 12:03pm
Oscars are pretty much biased. It seems like oscars have now become promotion of film industry rather then talent. As "separation" from Iran got oscar some years back. Controversial films are best way of publicity these days.
Einstein Babar Mar 02, 2016 12:25pm
and who is media to suggest what people should think?
naveed Mar 02, 2016 12:32pm
@Saima do you think it was the quality of production or the theme which won the Oscars?ever heard of 'Whiteman's burden'could it be part of same philosophy?
Taj Ispahany Mar 02, 2016 12:55pm
Bravo to Sharmeen! those who do not hear the cry of the silent are not only deaf,but also have hearts that are dead.Somebody has stood up to address the issues of the voiceless,lend her support in making women lead a fearless life.a right God has given women.
Aamer Mar 02, 2016 01:11pm
@Dawn 'the spotlight' highlights the negative side of religion in the American society and is well made movie which give its audience a lot to think about, just like Sharmeens documentary which will make our society think and put an end to this evil practice. Plus we only have one Sharmeen who is trying to make a change.
joyda Mar 02, 2016 01:57pm
In India too this silly argument frequently surfaces. Artists are expected to be unpaid diplomats for their country, their works "should" showcase all the achievements of post-colonial India. Satyajit Ray was blasted as a "poverty peddler" by most establishment intellectuals because his scripts were sourced from the pain and struggle of the real Indian. In 1990, the Viswanath Pratap Singh government withdrew permission to Roland Joffe for filming Dominic Lapiere's famous book, City of Joy, because it told the story of Calcutta's poorest denizens living in a slum called Pilkhana. Even Left wing parties supported the ban because it allegedly showed India and Calcutta in poor light. We South Asians celebrate low intellectualism and mediocrity. Sharmeen Chinoy and Taslima Nasreen are real and cannot be wished away by the smug elites of the region.
Parvez Mar 02, 2016 02:01pm
Agree ..... if the people look at this in a negative way its because they themselves are flawed. In ' To Kill a MOCKINGBIRD ' Harper Lee addressed an equally, if not more so, difficult subject and the book is a classic taught in schools today.......we need to be able to look at ourselves for what we are , if we are to go forwards.
Sama Mar 02, 2016 02:53pm
@Hamna You have yourself admitted that west only highlights issues that potray negative image of our country. So why we Pakistanis should be happy about it and congratulate Sharmeen? We are only telling her what she knows. That she only got this oscar because she made a controversial movie and not because she created a piece of art. @Einstein Babar Agreed. Sharmeen didn't bring us any glory so why we should be happy about her oscar? Should we thank her that she showed the negative aspects of our society? Why she didn't make a movie about our women who are serving in different fields, including army? Violence against women is not restricted to Pakistan and our law makers are trying their best. Mere words or assurances from PM will not change anything. If Sharmeen is serious about legislation regarding honour killings then she should meet the law makers, not PM. She should compaign for it and if she succeeds then she could make a movie about it.
ruby Mar 02, 2016 02:54pm
Look, first I am very happy for Sharmeen. Congrats! If a film wins an Oscar it does not mean that is actually a good film. It only means that it has met the appreciation of the Oscar's committee. That is a fact. A lot of the films that you or I might love never won the Oscar! The Big Short was a brilliant film but I knew it would never win the Oscar because it showed the grim under belly of American capitalism. Sharmeen has a good formula. Negative image about Pakistan sells these days. That is what the world wants and the Oscar committee gives it to them. If I were Sharmeen, I would do the same thing.
R.Kannan Mar 02, 2016 03:05pm
I have no knowledge of her films & cannot comment on the main issue. However, as a side issue, Oscars reflect the viewpoint of some Americans - nothing more, nothing less. We have seen several bollywood films being nominated but they never get awards unless they portray India in the way the Americans like - poverty, slums etc. a few years ago, Aamir Khan starer Lagaan was amongst the nomineees but it failed to pass the racism test - it showed average brown skined Indians beating white skinned Britishers. On the other hand, a pathetic film like Slumdog Millionare wins oscars because it shows slums & repression. I dare say the main reason why Sharmeen's film won the award was because it dovetails with what the Americans like to see & hear about Pakistan & not because of its veracity or otherwise. The sad thing is, in both Pakistan & India, we are still slavish in worrying about western approval.
Warrior Mar 02, 2016 03:37pm
Just hold on a second guys... We are already loosing any good image for Pakistanis if left. We do not need anything to kill our own image, we have people of our own, World. Yes because of such "perhi likhi" type productions, people see as baboons, Dont you get it???
Funga Mar 02, 2016 04:10pm
Why are you Pakistanis not proud of this? And why are you all so upset if she brought one truth to life? I know you are ashamed of it. So own it now and do something about it. She will make more movies. Stop looking at the result. OSCAR is no result. Sharmeen made a doc without considering if she will win and oscar or not. Start looking at the hardship she had to go through to make this doc and the hardship of the families associated with this heinous crime. Their story also deserve the voice and Sharmeen gave it. So stop this nonsense. And tomorrow if she makes a movie on drone attacks, regardless if its an oscar nod or not, would you be satisfied. I doubt it. You are a hater and its a void.
Abdul Karim Mar 02, 2016 05:51pm
Bad things need picking and cleaning up to become better. I wish Sharmeen Obaid pick one horrific wrong doing in Pakistani society every year and we rectify our society with that wrong doing within a year. Let us all make Sharmeen Obaid's struggle ours, by doing so will make Pakistan a better place year after year; other option is to keep celebrating murderers of our society.
Jumz Mar 02, 2016 06:12pm
Anything that reinforces the existing western perception of 3rd world countries is bound to receive instant acclamation in the west. Apart from Sharmeens oscar winning documentaries, Slumdog Millionnaire is another example. Nonetheless, she should be appreciated for her hard work to create awareness about critical issues at home. We need to change ourselves and the image will change by itself. Portraying a positive image doesn't change ground realities. Wake up Pakistan.
Sohail Mar 02, 2016 06:33pm
The issue is not about West or East. The issue is about respect and freedom of an individual men or women in a society. Sharmeen is fighting for that respect and freedom for women. Very simple.
lafanga Mar 02, 2016 07:33pm
She may be a good producer/director and have made movies highlighting ills in Pakistani society BUT I will not give her any credit unless she balances it out with good and positive things about Pakistan and there are MORE good things in Pakistan then bad. Let's see if she highlights something positive about Pakistan and win an Oscar for that. Most likely they will never give her one for this.
Azhar Iqbal Mar 02, 2016 08:10pm
@Farhan Please list 10 good things about Pakistan on which a documentary can be made. I am sure you will find it very difficult if not impossible. This challenge is for all those who are criticizing Ms. Chinos for portraying a negative image of Pakistan. Please have the courage and character to face the truth, if you want to progress as a nation. Closing your eyes won't change the realities of life.
Naseer U Khan Mar 02, 2016 10:28pm
she is illuminating the obsolete mind set and defective/decayed norms of society hindering this region to develop internationally recognizable and respectable institutions.
Prof. Nasik Elahi Mar 02, 2016 11:17pm
The documentary is a complex narrative of contorted feelings, cultural knots, suffering, survival and redemption. The film raises thorny issues that have yet to addressed in Pakistan. One issue not in the narrative but is an enevitable result of success for any Pakistani who gains any level of international recognition is the severe backbiting that is both vicious and personal. Pakistanis have evolved a conditioned reflex to any open discussions that they consider negative. It is a western conspiracy and the people who are standing up to raise the standards--Sharmeen Obaid, Malala Yusufafzai--are agents or pawns of these dastardly schemes to reflect negatively on the good image of the country. Such reactions are both childish and churlish and a sign that Pakistan has a long wy to go to attain social and political maturity where people are accorded their due whether one agrees with them or not.
Imran Ahmed Mar 03, 2016 12:29am
Those who want the issues raised by Sharmeen Chinoy's documentaries to be brushed under the carpet and not spoken of, specially not in front of an international audience, are vile. They are on the side of acid throwers and oppressors of the weak. We do not need to explain anything to such folk.
Nero Mar 03, 2016 03:07am
@Farhan: Sure. But, Pakistanis have no bias regarding "West" or Indians or Afghans? Bias is fine. It is very human. Government should show her movie in every school/college in Pakistan. Young men need to know that their "honour" lies in their actions, not in those of their mother's or sister's.
Siri Mar 03, 2016 03:44am
@Indian Wolfie Could not agree more!
Siri Mar 03, 2016 03:45am
@immo Spot on!
Zareen Mar 03, 2016 04:45am
I was thrilled when Sharmeen won her first Oscar. But this time I couldn't care less. I am from the negative bandwagon unfortunately. I am happy for her that she won another Oscar but not as a Pakistani. West has interest in our negativity and we give them more in a plate. Sharmeen should make a documentary on Edhi.
Umer Salahuddin Mar 03, 2016 05:29am
Why we do not have courage to face or present a reality. Sharmeen is only trying to show what is wrong in our society and through it to create awareness to do something to stop such henious crimes like hounour killing, acid throwing, parade poor women naked in the streets by the big landlords and so many. All critics belongs to a class who born with a golden spoon in their mouth.
AdHawk Mar 03, 2016 06:08am
1) Sharmeen didn't portray a positive image of her country. Question: Why is that her job? Is she in marketing? Did someone make this new rule nobody knows about? 2) Oscars always reward negativity when it comes to South Asia. Question: How does that explain American documentary giant Michael Moore who stood on the Oscar podium and denounced his own sitting President. Could it just be that conflict and triumph makes for a more compelling story?
Batool Nasir Mar 03, 2016 09:56am
Negative or positive image. I would rather concentrate on the 'documentary' aspect. It must be good enough to get an Oscar!
Mohamad Al Khatib Mar 03, 2016 01:45pm
@Indian Wolfie On the contrary, one of the reasons Dis-honour killings have a narrative is because they also happen in the West, where there has been much discussion of them. Admittedly it is South Asian families from poor backgrounds ...
Qamar Valliani Mar 04, 2016 05:30pm
How long we will hide the facts? Instead of criticising Sharmeen, criticise the useless leaders of this government
Patriot Mar 05, 2016 12:29pm
Please dont focus on the Oscar, rather the motive behind the mediocre documentary. As someone here rightly said, show them what they want and they will get an Oscar...I bet if Trump wins the presidency he might even give her a Medal of Honor for her next film (feel free to imagine a topic). Also what happened to the acid survivor from her last film who sued her?
ahmed Mar 05, 2016 01:07pm
@Saad I completely agree with your point of view. Well done Sharmeen I hope you do it again,let's embarass once again the supporters and sympathizers of patriarchal feudal system who are fighting tooth and nail to stop all the women protection laws ......all those criticizing Sharmeen for presenting the negative image of Pakistan please confront those who are trying to block the women protection bills and creating a horrible image of Pakistan globally.