As It Happens

Oscar-winning film pressures Pakistan to strengthen laws against honour killings

Last night, filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won the Academy Award for best short documentary. Now, she's hoping Pakistani lawmakers will follow through on their promise to end honour killings in the country.
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy poses with her Oscar for Best Documentary Short Subject, "A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness," in the press room during the 88th Oscars in Hollywood on February 28, 2016. / AFP / Robyn BECK (Photo credit should read ROBYN BECK/AFP/Getty Images) (Getty Images)

Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy won an Academy Award Sunday night for her short documentary A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness. 

The film tells the story of a Pakistani girl, Saba Qaiser, who was a victim of an attempted honour killing. The 18-year-old was brutally attacked by her father and uncle after she fell in love with a man her family didn't approve of. But she survived.

"I spoke with [Qaiser] ... after the Academy Award win. She's tremendously excited," Obaid-Chinoy tells As it Happens host Carol Off. "I think that it's important for us to realize ... here is a young woman that has stood up to society and told her story. Her story will become a catalyst, hopefully, for change in the country."

Even though this is Obaid-Chinoy's second Academy Award, she says it's a small victory compared with the one she is having in Pakistan. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has shown the film at his official residence. He has also promised legislation to put an end to honour killings in the country — a commitment that Obaid-Chinoy mentioned in her acceptance speech last night. 

Pakistani 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 February 28, 2016. (Mario Anzuoni/Reuters)

"The government is very serious, it seems, on passing these laws ... There are a lot of women who are clamouring for their rights, who are becoming very vocal and who are asking for change," says Obaid-Chinoy. "There are a number of laws that are favouring women that exist on the books. It is the implementation of those laws that is weak. So, having legislation is one thing. But, we must train our police and our social services to deal with violence against women as well. And, only then, will we see change."