Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker wins documentary short Oscar

LOS ANGELES -- A searing look at honour killings in Pakistan has earned Pakistani-Canadian filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy an Academy Award.

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The 37-year-old director claimed her second career Oscar on Sunday for "A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness" in the best short documentary category.

The film examines the case of an 18-year-old Pakistani girl who survived a brutal attack by her father and uncle bent on an "honour killing."

"This is what happens when determined women get together," a triumphant Obaid-Chinoy declared to cheers from the celeb-studded crowd.

"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."

"A Girl in the River" is the latest in a series of socially charged investigative films from Obaid-Chinoy's Karachi-based film company SOC Film.

She previously won a documentary short Oscar for "Saving Face" in 2012, about acid attacks.

The Pakistani premiere for "A Girl in the River" was attended by senior cabinet members and diplomats. After the screening, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif vowed to change laws that allow families to murder their daughters in the name of "honour."

Rights groups estimate that about 1,000 Pakistani women are killed every year for "bringing shame" to their families.

The brutal tradition allows murderers to avoid punishment if they are forgiven by the family of their victims.

Obaid-Chinoy's other accolades include a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee Medal, a Crystal Award from the World Economic Forum and a state honour from the Pakistani government.

In the weeks leading up to the Oscars, Obaid-Chinoy said she was grateful to see her nomination spark discussion around religiously motivated murders.

"I think that that's a win in itself because it's such a difficult topic and people shy away from it, normally," said Obaid-Chinoy, a dual citizen who lived in Toronto from 2004 to 2015.

Her competition Sunday included Toronto-based journalist Adam Benzine, who was up for his short film "Claude Lanzmann: Spectres of the Shoah."

"A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness" is set to air on HBO Canada on March 7.

Following her Oscar win for Documentary Short, search interest in Obaid-Chinoy increased worldwide by 177 per cent, according to Google Canada.

With files from CTV News


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