Branksome Hall News

Advocacy Through Film

Described as bold, brave and determined, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, an Academy Award-winning filmmaker and activist, shared her powerful stories with our Grade 6-12 students during a recent assembly.
“Truth is worth fighting for,” said Sharmeen, who became a documentary filmmaker with the mission to create change and fight for social justice.

Sharmeen began writing for newspapers when she was 14-years-old, where she found her passion for exposes and investigative stories. She then further developed her taste for activism while studying Economics and Political Science at Smith College.

Wanting to highlight the inequalities of women and children, Sharmeen pitched her first documentary about Afghan refugee children in Pakistan. Writing proposals and contacting dozens of networks was a challenge but Sharmeen never gave up despite being rejected multiple times. “If a door hasn’t opened, it’s because you haven’t kicked it hard enough,” she said triumphantly.

Since then, Sharmeen has gone on to make more than two dozen films, many of which she showed clips of in assembly. Some of her documentaries centre around women’s access to contraception, the Iraq war’s impact on children, and acid attacks on women – of which she won her first Academy Award for. CLICK HERE TO WATCH THE TRAILER OF SAVING FACE.

The question Sharmeen asks herself while creating these films is: “why is this happening on our watch?” She then strives to tell a story that will inspire her audience to act. “Film can be a tool for advocacy,” added Sharmeen.

Realizing the audience she needs to reach the most are women and children in impoverished and rural communities, she created Pakistan’s first mobile theatre. Trucks with projectors travel to villages and play her documentaries outside underprivileged schools. “It’s important for filmmakers to take their films to those who need to see them the most,” explained Sharmeen.

The topics of Sharmeen’s films have garnered a lot of criticism and she is often threatened for the investigative work she does, but she says she can’t be silenced. “That’s just part of fighting.”

Sharmeen was also the guest speaker at this year’s annual Branksome Hall Parents’ Association Luncheon on October 12, 2018.

Click below to watch highlights from Sharmeen's visit to Branksome.


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