ISLAMABAD - A Pakistani documentary tracing the suffering of women disfigured in acid attacks in the south Asian Muslim country won the Oscar award on Monday, February 27.
The women's "bravery and resilience in the face of adversity inspires me every single day," director Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy told Reuters.
"They are the true heroes of Pakistan."
Chinoy's film Saving Face won the Oscar award for the best short documentary.
In her acceptance speech, Chinoy dedicated the Oscar to "all the heroes working on the ground in Pakistan".
The 52-minute film chronicles the work of a London-based Pakistani plastic surgeon, who performed reconstructive surgery on survivors of acid attacks in Pakistan.
"To win ... and with such a subject -- it's such an honor," co-director Daniel Junge said.
The film features a girl who describes how she was burned after rejecting the advances of her teacher. She was 13 at the time.
Another woman featured in the film is 25-year-old Rukhsana, whose husband threw acid on her, and her sister-in-law doused her in gasoline before her mother-in-law lit a match and set her on fire.
"I spoke with Rukhsana before I left," Chinoy said.
"She is trying to make enough money to build her own home for herself and her children without her husband. She's awaiting her final surgery."
Rukhsana's story was left unfinished in the film.
More than 100 people, mainly women and girls, are disfigured in acid attacks every year in Pakistan.
Groups helping survivors say many more cases go unreported.
Victims are often permanently blinded, and their scar tissue can become infected with septicemia or gangrene.
Pakistan is the world's third-most dangerous country for women, after Afghanistan and Democratic Republic of Congo, based on a survey conducted last year by the Thomson Reuters Foundation, with acid attacks a common means of punishing alleged transgressions.
Story of Hope
The filmmaker hopes that her documentary would be a message of hope for acid attacks victims in Pakistan.
"It is a story of hope with a powerful message for the Pakistani audience, Chinoy said before attending the ceremony in Los Angeles.
I felt this would be a great way to show how Pakistanis can help other Pakistanis overcome their problems.
The Oscar win has drawn widespread praise in the Muslim country.
Artists could act as a catalyst in bringing positive change in society, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said in a message.
The Pakistani premier announced that a high civilian award would be given to Chinoy for winning the Oscar.
President Asif Ali Zardari also congratulated the filmmaker for highlighting a sensitive topic and for sending a message to the world about Pakistan`s softer image.
The Oscar win, the first-ever in Pakistan, was also greeted with euphoric joy among ordinary Pakistanis.
We are happy for Chinoy. It shows that there is a lot of talent in our country, a Pakistani girl told Geo TV.
Saving Face' is set to air on American cable television network HBO on March 8, while Junge and Chinoy also plan to show it in Pakistan.
"We're going to try to find the best possible way to show the film while ensuring that the women in the film are safe," Chinoy told Reuters.
Chinoy's films have won international acclaim.
Her 2010 documentary, 'Pakistan's Taliban Generation', won an International Emmy Award.
She said her next project is developing a television series about "people in Pakistan who are doing incredible work and trying to change their communities."
"This win is a testament that Pakistanis can do anything," she added."We had a global audience and people heard our message. Despite our problems there are people trying to effect change."