Receiving its UK premiere at this year’s Human Rights Watch Film Festival, Sharmeen Obaid-Chonoy and Daniel Junge’s documentary Saving Face has attracted worldwide attention after winning the Oscar for Best Documentary (Short Subject) at this year’s Academy Awards. Lifting the veil on the relatively undocumented plight of hundreds of Pakistani women who have been deliberately disfigured by acid attacks, Saving Face is a powerfully revealing film that not only gives a platform for its victims, but has also been the driving force behind new laws implemented to prevent these repugnant premeditated attacks in Pakistan.
Saving Face came about when co-director Daniel Junge was inspired by an interview he had with Mohammed Jawad, a British plastic surgeon of Pakistani descent who was thrust into the limelight after restoring model Katie Piper’s face after an acid attack in London. Jawad had decided to use his skill set to return to Pakistan and attempt to help some of the many women affected by similar malicious attacks with free reconstructive surgery. During their journey the film’s directors managed to interview a collection of incredibly brave women who have been victimised – each one with their own tale of woe but with an overriding sense of optimism that only amplifies their strength of character.
Saving Face is a soul crushingly powerful film, thrusting this deplorable crime into the spotlight with tremendous effect. However, whilst its subject matter is undeniably devastating, the way in which the film depicts its message is not through shock tactics but rather by immersing you into the lives of its deeply fascinating subjects. Mohammed Jawad is the perfect choice to spearhead the film’s impassioned message. A warm and engaging star, this surgeon’s compassionate and light-hearted demeanour only helps to involve the audience further with the issues being presented on screen.
Praise for the film however lies wholly with its cultural importance rather than its assured workmanship. Despite still being relatively unknown the film has already help pass a bill in Pakistan for the perpetrators of these acid attacks to be jailed for life. The figures have already began to show the effects of this new law and whilst the number of reported cases has increased this is just proof that the hundreds of heavily repressed woman in Pakistan who previously had feared to speak out are now willing to come forward and report such attacks.
It’s a tremendous achievement for a short documentary to have helped change the situation in Pakistan so dramatically and with the rest of the world (including South America and Africa where acid attacks are also prevalent) in their sights there’s no knowing just how important Saving Face could be for women’s’ rights across the world.
Everything a hard hitting documentary should be Saving Face is a powerful and deeply affecting film that deserves to be praised for achieving global awareness of its shocking subject matter – a film that regardless of religion, nationality or race demands to be seen by all.