x Abu Dhabi, UAEMonday 24 July 2017

Oscar-winning documentary Saving Face at Abu Dhabi Film Festival

The documentary focuses on two Pakistani women, victims of acid attacks that left them horrifically disfigured.

A scene from the film Saving Face. Asad Faruqi / HBO
A scene from the film Saving Face. Asad Faruqi / HBO

The Oscar-winning documentary Saving Face will be screened during the Abu Dhabi Film Festival, according to a statement on the website of the film's US-based producers Milkhaus.

Directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Daniel Junge, the documentary explores acid attacks on women in Pakistan that leave them horrifically disfigured, often perpetrated by in-laws and spouses.

More than 100 cases surface in the country each year, with many more going unreported. Saving Face focuses on two women, Zakia and Rukhsana, as they attempt to bring their attackers to justice. In the process, Dr Mohammad Jawad, a London-based plastic surgeon with extensive experience in working with burns victims, returns to Pakistan to help the women.

A significant proportion of the film also follows the work of Pakistan's Acid Survivors Foundation and the politician Marvi Menon to push for legislation that will bring acid attackers to justice with life imprisonment sentences.

In her acceptance speech at the Academy Awards, Obaid-Chinoy dedicated the award to "the women of Pakistan working for change".

But controversy around the project has developed since its success. Pakistan's Dawn newspaper reported in June that Rukhsana, one of the victims at the centre of the documentary, has accused the filmmakers of not seeing through on promises made before filming.

According to Dawn and other news agencies in Pakistan, Rukhsana filed a complaint with a regional court saying that the filmmakers had promised her a house, 3 million Pakistani rupees (Dh116,400) and plastic surgery as compensation for her appearance in the film.

According to a report in Dawn, Obaid-Chinoy denied the allegations on Twitter, stating that the offer of a house was made by a private donor who had watched the film and insisted on providing shelter for Rukhsana rather than a cash sum that could endanger her life further. Obaid-Chinoy was also reported to say that Rukhsana had turned down offers of reconstructive surgery from Dr Jawad.

The Abu Dhabi Film Festival became part of TwoFour54, Abu Dhabi's media zone authority, in March. TwoFour54 told The National that it can neither confirm or deny that the film is in the programme for this year's festival at this stage. A full line-up will be announced later this month.