Women fight to block Saving Face film in Pakistan
Women who took part in the Oscar winning film about surviving the horror of acid attacks are taking legal action to prevent it being screened in Pakistan.
Fearing they will be shunned in their communities, some of the women who appear only fleetingly in the film are taking legal action against the producers, claiming they were told it would only be shown if each person in the film gave their consent.
Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy was feted in Pakistan after she won her country’s first Oscar for the 40-minute film exposing the horrors endured by women whose faces are obliterated in acid attacks carried out by relatives who believe they have brought shame on the family (see WVoN story).
The film focuses on the struggle of Zakia and Rukhsana, who were both attacked by their husbands, and the work of British Pakistani plastic surgeon Mohammad Jawad who tries to help restore their faces.
Awarded the best short documentary prize, Oscar Awards (see WVoN story) the film was made with the cooperation of the Acid Survivors Foundation Pakistan (ASF).
But now ASF has hired lawyers to represent the victims and legal notices were sent to Obaid-Chinoy and fellow producer Daniel Junge on Friday.
Naila Farhat, who was 13 when the man she refused to marry threw acid in her face, was one of the women who appears briefly in the film who claims she never agreed to the film being shown in Pakistan.
Now 22 and training as a nurse after a long and painful recovery, Farhat expressed surprise that the film had been so successful:
“We had no idea it would be a hit and win an Oscar,” she said.
“This is disrespect to my family, to my relatives and they’ll make an issue of it. You know what it’s like in Pakistan. They gossip all the time if they see a woman in a film,” she added.
“We may be in more danger and we’re scared that, God forbid, we could face the same type of incident again. We do not want to show our faces to the world.”
Obaid-Chinoy has insisted the women signed legal documents allowing the film to be shown anywhere in the world, including Pakistan.
She said that Rukhsana had been edited out of the version to be shown in the country out of respect for her concerns, adding she was “unclear about the allegations” and would respond to the legal complaints “when a court orders us”.
Lawyer Naveed Muzaffar Khan who is representing the women said they were regularly threatened by their husbands or relatives and were fearful of what would happen to them if the film was shown on Pakistan television.
“Pakistan is a conservative society,” he said. “These women come from rural areas. It will be extremely difficult for them to face their families and friends.
“They fear this is going to lead possibly to more violence and more attacks.”