MB Recommends: ‘Saving Face’
Zakia’s husband threw undiluted battery acid in her face after she tried to divorce him. Rukhsana’s husband also threw acid, but it was her sister-in-law who followed up with gasoline, and her mother-in-law who lit the match. In Saving Face, Daniel Junge and Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy’s Oscar-winning documentary, it’s not only spurned men who perpetrate violence against women; it’s in-laws and family, teachers and husbands responsible for most of the 100 attacks reported in Pakistan every year. Hundreds more go undocumented, but it’s the women who step forward, in public and in court, whom Saving Face chronicles, some in pursuit of justice, others to simply voice their story, and as one young girl questions heartbreakingly, “I was an innocent child. Why did he ruin my face? What did I do wrong?”.
The answer, of course, is nothing, and it’s entirely to the credit of filmmakers Obaid-Chinoy and Junge that the camera is used less as a tool to pass indignant commentary—there is notably no voice-over narration. They simply provide the women with the right to be heard. The indignation is the viewer’s alone to feel, and as we watch as each woman unveils their face to reveal its rubbery deformities, glazed eye sockets and waxen throats, it is we who are left questioning the depths of human atrocity. How far will human beings go in pursuit of that much misunderstood thing “honour”? How wretched can they be? The answer leaves you spinning for long after the 40 minutes are done.
Our sole narrator of sorts, a portly Pakistani doctor Mohammed Jawad, a London-based plastic surgeon who comes to Islamabad to reconstruct the faces of acid attack victims, is also one of the documentary’s shining lights. Here, in the burn unit of a government hospital to work with Zakia and Rukhsana among others, it is he who asks for their stories and tries to return to them some semblance of dignity. At moments, even Jawad, unable to hear these stories anymore, struggles to contain himself, listening to Rukhsana weep as she tells him she had to return to her husband’s family because she was unable to care for her sick child. In return, the family isolated her, building a brick wall between her and her daughter so she’d never be able to see her again.
The documentary’s most loathsome people are the attackers: both Zakia and Rukhsana’s husbands deny beating, torturing and disfiguring them with acid. “She’s mine, I’ve married her,” says a petulant Pervez, Zakia’s husband who is behind bars, awaiting trial. Yasir, the smug-faced husband of Rukhsana meanwhile, blames his wife for burning herself. Pakistan rejoiced when Obaid-Chinoy accepted the Academy Award for best documentary short this year, and became the first Pakistani to ever win an Oscar. Now that the hoopla has died down, it is hoped that the country will not forget what it owes to its women—to protect them just as its men so freely do their “honour”.
Saving Face will be screened at the NCPA’s Experimental Theatre, on Tuesday, July 24. The screening will be followed by a discussion between co-director Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and filmmaker Kiran Rao. To RSVP, email email@example.com.Tags: Asia Society, Daniel Junge, Documentary, Film, MB Recommends, Saving Face, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy
LocationNational Centre for the Performing Arts
Phone022 6622 3737
Relevant DatesTuesday, July 24
Ticketing & Price InfoFree