Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s documentary ‘A Girl In The River – The Price Of Forgiveness’ has been nominated as one of only five documentaries from across the globe in the Best Documentary – Short subject category for the 88th Academy Awards.
The announcement was made earlier by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts & Sciences, more popularly known as the Oscars, due to take place on February 28. Sharmeen has previously won Pakistan’s first Academy Award for her documentary ‘Saving Face’ at the 84th Annual Academy Awards in 2012. Indeed, Sharmeen is one of only 11 female directors who have ever won an Oscar for a non-fiction film.
The SOC Films and Home Box Office (HBO) production film ‘A Girl In The River – The Price Of Forgiveness, is based on the controversial practice of honour killing in Pakistan. The documentary follows the story of an 18-year-old woman who miraculously survived a brutal attack by her father and uncle and with the support of a local police officer was able to have both imprisoned for their crime. Initially, she fought the case determined to get the maximum punishment for the two perpetrators. But for weeks the young woman was pressured by the community elders to forgive and forget, to bring peace back to the neighbourhood – and to release the sole breadwinner of her large family from prison! Pakistani law allows for victims of honour crimes to forgive the perpetrators. Most women never survive the attack and virtually no one has ever been sent to jail for an honour killings crime. In her case she eventually had to forgive.
Inspired by her courage and the countless victims of honour crimes in Pakistan, Sharmeen launches an anti honour killing campaign, The Price of Forgiveness. Honour killings affect hundreds of women in Pakistan every year where women are killed in the name of “honour”. Many of these murders are not documented. Honour killing is considered an offence against the individual and not the State and hence the victim can choose to ‘forgive’ the perpetrator by law. If the victim is killed, which is often what happens in such cases, the right to forgive lies with the victim’s family – who are usually the perpetrators themselves! This law allows perpetrators to take advantage of this impunity. With this campaign, Sharmeen hopes to mobilise civil society, key stakeholders and opinion leaders to push the Parliament to pass the anti-Honour Killings Laws Bill 2014. The bill will ensure that victims of honour crimes can no longer forgive their perpetrators, which has been exemplified by the film. The bill was introduced to Senate by Senator Sughra Iman and passed through Senate in March 2015 but lapsed in Parliament later that year. The objective of this bill is to make sure honour killings are stopped immediately, by addressing the lack of attention and implementation of existing laws in an effective manner.
“I am delighted that ‘A Girl In The River – The Price Of Forgiveness’ has been nominated for an Academy Award. This film and its message is incredibly important to me. Honour killings affect hundreds of women in Pakistan every year and I hope that the film and its message will catalyse awareness and action around this crisis, igniting change for women and help put an end to this tragic abuse of human rights. This is an opportunity for Pakistan to acknowledge that it has a problem and to address it with urgency because there is no honour in an honour killing. We will send out a strong message that this heinous crime is not a part of our culture or religion and by passing this legislation we will stand up for those victims who are no longer with us today,” said Sharmeen.
Sharmeen is an Academy Award and an Emmy Award winning documentary filmmaker. She has made various mult-award winning films in over 10 countries around the world. Her films include ‘Saving Face’, ‘Transgenders – Pakistan’s Open Secret’ and ‘Pakistan’s Taliban Generation’. Her work has aired on channels spanning four continents. In 2012, Time included Sharmeen in their annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world. In 2013, the Canadian government awarded Sharmeen a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal for her work in the field of documentary films and the World Economic Forum honoured her with a Crystal Award at their annual summit in Davos.
‘A Girl In The River – The Price Of Forgiveness’ is set to air on America’s premier television cable network HBO this year.