“This is what happens when determined women get together.”
These powerful words opened Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s speech as she accepted the 2016 Academy Award for Best Documentary (Short Category) for her moving film, A Girl in the River.
Centred on the extraordinary story of Saba, a young Pakistani woman who survived an attempted “honour” killing after marrying a man against her family’s wishes, A Girl in the River is already sending ripples of change across Pakistan.
“This week the Pakistani Prime Minister has said that he will change the law on honour killing in Pakistan after watching this film,” Obaid-Chinoy announced to loud cheers. “That is the power of film.”
Congrats Sharmeen Obaid winning #Oscar for A Girl in the river!Posted by Parthiban Shanmugam on Sunday, 28 February 2016
Obaid-Chinoy’s second Oscar win marks a pivotal moment for women across Pakistan. Soon after the award was announced, the country’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif praised the director for her art and activism:
"Women like Ms. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy are not only a pride for the Pakistani nation but are also a significant source of contribution toward the march of civilization in the world,” Sharif told Reuters after the news broke.
In an awards ceremony laced with controversy about its lack of diversity, Obaid-Chinoy’s speech was a refreshing reminder of the need to speak out for equality of all kinds.
Her speech championed brave women like Saba who speak out against their oppressors, as well as the “men out there, like [Sharmeen's] father and husband who push women to go to school and work, and who want a more just society for women.” It is a rallying cry for the rights of women and girls everywhere.
Although change may not arise overnight, the Pakistani filmmaker’s courageous work proves the power of art to change hearts, minds and lives across the world.