The ability to use film to spread awareness on social issues is a talent many aspire to but not many accomplish. Fortunately for humanity, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy has achieved that and so much more.
A filmmaker, journalist and activist, Obaid-Chinoy has not only brought awareness to social injustices through cinema but has also helped bring about change to laws for more equality. Obaid-Chinoy has proven that when cinema is created with good intentions, courage, and a commitment to give those who are being silenced a voice, its power can transcend beyond the screen and make a true difference.
By bringing the voices of ordinary people faced with extraordinary challenges to television screens around the world, I hope to affect change in one community at a time.
Born in Pakistan in 1978, Obaid-Chinoy didn’t always have a passion for producing films. It was only in her later school years while pursuing her studies in the United States that she watched her first documentary and began to understand them as a vehicle to spread awareness on important social matters. The first story Obaid-Chinoy proposed was about highlighting the stories of Afghan refugee children living in Pakistan, on the streets of Karachi, and after relentlessly sending it to 80 different companies, it was finally picked up by New York Times Television.
That was just the start because since then, Obaid-Chinoy has put herself at risk by boldly addressing controversial topics. It’s her brave spirit of authentic story telling that has led her to receive several awards including six Emmys, a LUX style award and two Oscars.
She took home her first Oscar in 2012 — the first one awarded to a director from Pakistan — for the film Saving Face, a heart-wrenching story about a plastic surgeon who helps survivors of acid attacks in Pakistan. No longer able to ignore the issue, shortly after the documentary came out, the province of Punjab began to deem acid violence as a crime of terrorism.
She earned her second Oscar in 2016 — making her the only two-time Oscar winner from Pakistan — for the film A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, which takes a hard look at the injustice of honour killings in Pakistan. The documentary is so powerful it led the Pakistani government to discuss changing their laws to provide women with more protection.
Obaid-Chinoy’s accolades aren’t limited to the entertainment industry; she’s received a state honour from the Pakistani Government, a Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum, the Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, and she was named in Time magazine’s 100 Most Influential People in 2012.
It’s often said that I choose subjects that are sensational! I choose to film subjects that spark difficult conversations and make people uncomfortable. Change only comes about when people are forced to discuss an issue, and that’s what I hope my films do.
In a period of political uncertainty for many countries around the world, one thing we can find comfort in is the courage Obaid-Chinoy continues to depict. In her tireless effort to advocate for social justice, Obaid-Chinoy has empowered so many people, proving that media can, and should, be used for powerful and positive change.
Most recently, she joined forces with NBA superstar LeBron James and co-directed Student Athlete with Trish Dalton. They spent two years exploring the college athlete space and seeing what it takes to be part of the highly competitive billion-dollar industry. Student Athlete had its world premiere on HBO Sports this past October.
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy was included in The ANOKHI Prestige List 2012.
Thumbnail Image Photo Credit: www.acelebrationofwomen.org
Main Image Photo Credit: www.cbc.ca