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Sanchita Sharma, Hindustan Times
New Delhi, February 27, 2012
Saving Face, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Daniel Junge's film about a plastic surgeon who travelled to Pakistan from the UK to help victims of acid attacks, won the Documentary (Short Subject) Academy Award.

The documentary won Pakistan its first Oscar and beat of films on last year's tsunami in Japan and James Armstrong, a US civil rights movement hero.

Pakistani filmmaker Obaid-Chinoy, 33, dedicated her award to "all the women in Pakistan working for change, don't give up on your dreams, this is for you," she said. "Saving Face is also a story of hope and about Pakistani women helping each other. In this instance, a female Pakistani lawyer took up the legal case of one of the victims and successfully managed to convict the perpetrator," said Obaid-Chinoy, 33, in an interview. "The women who decided to be a part of the documentary did so because they wanted to make their voices heard and wanted to bring attention to this form of assault," she said.

In the 40-minute film, one girl narrates her story of being burned at the age of 13 for rejecting the advances of her teacher. More than 100 women were disfigured by acid attacks in Pakistan in 2011, with some NGOs claiming unrecorded cases could be double this.

Acid-throwing is not unique to Pakistan or south Asia. Dr Jawad is best-known for restoring the face of UK model and TV presenter Katie Piper, who got scarred and blinded in one eye when her boyfriend had acid thrown on her face in north London in 2008.

Since India's National Crime Records Bureau doesn't list acid throwing under a separate category, no comparable data is available, but reconstructive surgeons here report getting sporadic cases of acid burns.

"The victims are almost always young women with acid burns on their faces that damages skin tissue, at times exposing the bones, and often causing blindness," says Dr Shahin Nooreyezdan, senior consultant of plastic, reconstructive and cosmetic surgery at Apollo Hospitals.

The permanent scarring caused usually requires more than one surgery. "A Delhi girl I recently treated had undergone 25 plastic surgeries, of which I did five. In most cases, at least half a dozen surgeries are needed," said Dr Sunil  Choudhary, director, Max institute of aesthetic and reconstructive surgery, where 6-8 acid burns cases are treated annually.

Last year, Obaid-Chinoy won an International Emmy for Pakistan's Taliban Generation, a documentary on young Taliban recruits after September 11.