Arts & Entertainment

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, Oscar winner, says Canada informs her work

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy says there is a reward in starting difficult conversations, even if it risks her life

Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy explains how Canada affected her filmmaking 1:07

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Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, who won the Academy Award for documentary short, credits her time in Canada for helping inform her powerful storytelling.

"When you live in a country like Canada, you begin to realize how right things can be," Obaid-Chinoy told CBC inside the Oscars press room after her win. "Then when you travel back to Pakistan and to other countries which are in conflict, you can see what's going wrong."

Her winning documentary short, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness, is about honour killings, told through the eyes of Saba Qaiser.

"She wanted her story told," said Obaid-Chinoy. "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."

Qaiser, 18, fell in love with a man against her family's wishes. Shortly after they eloped, her father and uncle shot her in the head and left her for dead. Her survival led her to become a rare voice for women in similar situations and the one needed for Obaid-Chinoy to tell the story.

AWARDS-OSCARS/

Pakistani-Canadian journalist and filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy accepts the award for Best Documentary Short Subject Film for A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness at the 88th Academy Awards in Hollywood, California Feb. 28. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

"I think it's important to see what what human beings are capable of," said the filmmaker.

Obaid-Chinoy, who now lives in Pakistan but has spent a lot of time going between Toronto and her home country, said her work has prompted difficult conversations that often risked her life but that there is "payback" in doing so.

The filmmaker and journalist also won an Academy Award for her 2012 documentary Saving Face, about women in Pakistan searching for justice after suffering acid attacks.

That win made her the first Pakistani to capture an Oscar.

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

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