Oscar-winning Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker inspired by Canada

Oscar-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy says her work is inspired by Canada's stance on many human rights issues.

Saving Face filmmaker a dual citizen

Saving Face filmmakers Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, left, and Daniel Junge pose with their awards for best documentary short during the Academy Awards on Sunday. (Joel Ryan/Associated Press)

Oscar-winning filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy says her work is inspired by Canada's stance on many human rights issues. 

The Pakistani-born journalist, who became a Canadian citizen after moving to Toronto in 2004, won the Academy Award for best documentary short.

The dual citizen was recognized for her film Saving Face, billed as the first from Pakistan to win an Oscar.

It follows the struggles of women who have been disfigured by acid attacks, usually inflicted by husbands or relatives.

Obaid-Chinoy was born and raised in Karachi but married a Canadian citizen and now splits her time between Toronto and her various filming locales.

At Sunday's Oscar ceremony, the producer took the stage with director Daniel Junge to dedicate the award "to all the women in Pakistan who are working for change."

Reached Monday in Los Angeles, Obaid-Chinoy described the win as "stunning, overwhelming, unbelievable."

"And of course, very gratifying," said Obaid-Chinoy, whose husband was also born in Pakistan but moved to Canada after studying in the United States.

"We had been getting favourable feedback from people who had gone to see the film ... but the other films that we were competing against were also tremendous films with filmmakers who had been nominated for the Academy Award before. We thought that we had a chance but certainly we didn't think we were the front-runners."

The 40-minute Saving Face follows several women who have been disfigured by acid violence and chronicles the efforts of a doctor to reconstruct their faces and restore their dignity. It airs March 8 on HBO Canada.

"I'm inspired by the stance that Canada takes on many human rights situations," Obaid-Chinoy said of the influence she's felt from her adopted homeland. 

"I've been able to meet some wonderful people in Canada and ... I have a community of filmmakers that I work with in Canada often — editors and cameramen and the film community is very supportive." 

During her acceptance speech at the Oscar bash, Obaid-Chinoy dedicated her win to the women of Pakistan.

"Don't give up on your dreams. This is for you," said Obaid-Chinoy, also an Emmy award-winning film producer and journalist. 

Backstage, she noted that Pakistan had a vibrant film industry in the '50s and '60s but that things have since changed.

"And now my generation, there are a number of filmmakers ... trying to revive that, but it's few and far between," she said in a transcript provided by the academy. 

"And I hope that this will be an impetus to getting a more flourishing film industry in Pakistan."

Obaid-Chinoy said Hollywood's star-packed bash provided a startling brush with fame after she claimed the gold statue. She said the first two people she ran into backstage were A-listers Brad Pitt and Angelina Jolie.

"And because Angelina has a connection to Pakistan, because she's been there, it was really nice to chat with her about that and give her a copy of our film," said Obaid-Chinoy.