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Oscars 2016: Winning filmmaker gives powerful speech about honour killings in Pakistan

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Tuesday, March 1st, 2016
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Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy made a powerful speech at the Oscars last night, after winning the award for best documentary short.

But rather than using the platform to gush thanks, Obaid-Chinoy took the chance to speak out about the topic of her film: honour killings.

The practice – where men kill their own female family members for ‘dishonouring’ them, typically by having relationships they disapprove of – is particularly common in Pakistan.

Obaid-Chinoy’s film A Girl In The River: The Price of Forgiveness shines a light on such killings. It tells the story of Saba Qaiser, a real young woman in Pakistan who survived attempted murder by her father and uncle after she married someone they felt ‘dishonoured’ the family.

Her film has garnered international attention, leading officials in Pakistan to promise they will work to end the illegal practice.

Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy's film A Girl in the River
Pakistani filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s film A Girl in the River

“This is what happens when determined women get together,” said Obaid-Chinoy in her Oscar acceptance speech.

“This week the Pakistani Prime Minister has said that he will change the law on honour killing after watching this film. That is the power of film.”

She thanked Qaiser, saying: “The impact of her story is tremendous, because it is going to change lives, and it’s going to save lives, and there can be no greater reward than that.

“The power of being nominated for an Academy Award really does mean for a country like Pakistan that you can change laws.”

Qaiser, 18, eloped with a man she fell in love with but shortly after as shot in the head by her relatives who left her for dead.

She survived and has now become a campaigner against honour killings.

Obaid-Chinoy dedicated her award to Qaiser along with others who helped her tell her story:

“From Saba, the woman in my film who remarkably survived an honour killing and shared her story, to Sheila Nevins and Lisa Heller from HBO, to Tina Brown, who supported me from day one. To the men who champion women, like Geof Bartz in my film, who’s edited the film, to Asad Faruqi, to my friend Ziad, who brought this film to the government.

“To all the brave men out there, like my father and my husband, who push women to go to school and work, and who want a more just society for women.”

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