Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy

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Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy World Economic Forum 2013.jpg
Chinoy at the World Economic Forum in 2013
Born (1978-11-12) 12 November 1978 (age 42)
Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan
Alma materSmith College (BA)
Stanford University (MA, MIP)
OccupationFilmmaker, journalist
Years active2000–present
Spouse(s)Fahd Kamal Chinoy
WebsiteOfficial website

Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy (Urdu: شرمین عبید چنائے‎; born 12 November 1978) is a Pakistani-Canadian journalist, filmmaker and activist known for her work in films that highlight the inequality with women. She is the recipient of two Academy Awards, seven Emmy Awards and a Knight International Journalism Award. In 2012, the Government of Pakistan honoured her with the Hilal-i-Imtiaz, the second highest civilian honour of the country and the same year Time magazine named her one of the 100 most influential people in the world. She holds the record for being the only female film director to have won two Academy Awards by the age of 37.[1][2][3]

Obaid Chinoy was born in Karachi in 1978. She did her early schooling at the Convent of Jesus and Mary and subsequently went on to study at Karachi Grammar School.[4] She received her bachelor's degree in economics and government from Smith College in 2002.[5] Obaid-Chinoy went on to earn two master's degrees from Stanford University, the first in International Policy Studies was granted in 2003 and the next, in Communication, in 2004. She returned to Pakistan and launched her career as a filmmaker with her first film Terror's Children for The New York Times.[6] In 2003 and 2004 she made two award-winning films while at Stanford.[6] Her most notable films includes, the animated adventure 3 Bahadur (2015), the musical journey Song of Lahore (2015) and the two Academy Award-winning films, the documentary Saving Face (2012) and the biographical A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness (2016).[7] Her visual contributions have earned her numerous awards, including two Academy Awards for Best Short Subject in 2012 and 2016 and two Emmy Awards in the same category in 2010 and 2011.[8][9]

Obaid Chinoy has also won six Emmy Awards, including two of which are in the International Emmy Award for Current Affairs Documentary category for the films, the terrorist drama Pakistan's Taliban Generation[10] and the documentary Saving Face (2012)[11] Throughout her career, she has made many records, her Academy Award win for Saving Face made her the first Pakistani to win an Academy Award[12][13][14] and she is one of only eleven female directors who have ever won an Oscar for a non-fiction film.[15][16][17] She is also the first non-American to win the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.[14] The 2015 animated adventure 3 Bahadur made her the first Pakistani to make a computer-animated feature-length film.[8][18][19] In 2017, Obaid-Chinoy became the first artist to co-chair the World Economic Forum.[20]

Early life and background[edit]

Obaid-Chinoy was born on 12 November 1978 in Karachi, Sindh, Pakistan. Her mother, Saba Obaid, is a social worker and her father, Sheikh Obaid, was a businessman, who died in 2010. She has a younger sister, Mahjabeen Obaid.

Obaid-Chinoy attended Convent of Jesus and Mary, followed by schooling at Karachi Grammar School (in the same class as Kumail Nanjiani).[21] According to her, she was not inclined toward academics though received good grades. Upon moving to the United States for higher education, she studied at Smith College, from where she completed her bachelor's degree in Economics and Government in 2002.[22] Later, Obaid-Chinoy received two master's degrees from Stanford University in Communication and International Policy Studies.[23]

Career and international recognition[edit]

In 2002, she returned to Pakistan,[5] and launched her career as a filmmaker. In 2003 and 2004 she made two award-winning films while a graduate student at Stanford University.[6] She then began a long association with the PBS TV series Frontline World, where she reported "On a Razor's Edge" in 2004 and went on over the next 5 years to produce many broadcast reports, online videos and written "Dispatches" from Pakistan. Her most notable films include Children of the Taliban, The Lost Generation, Afghanistan Unveiled, 3 Bahadur, Song of Lahore and the Academy Award-winning Saving Face and A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness.[7] Her visual contributions have earned her numerous awards, including the Academy Award for Best Short Subject Documentary (2012 and 2016) and the Emmy Award in the same category (2010 and 2011) and the One World Media Award for Broadcast Journalist of the Year (2007). Her films have been aired on several international channels, including the PBS, CNN, Discovery Channel, Al Jazeera English and Channel 4.[8][24][25][26][27]

Obaid-Chinoy has also won six Emmy Awards, including two in the International Emmy Award for Current Affairs Documentary category for the films Pakistan's Taliban Generation[10] and Saving Face.[11] Her Academy Award win for Saving Face made her the first Pakistani to win an Academy Award,[12][13][14] and she is one of only 11 female directors who have ever won an Oscar for a non-fiction film.[15][16][17] She is also the first non-American to win the Livingston Award for Young Journalists.[14] The 2015 animated adventure 3 Bahadur made her the first Pakistani to make a computer-animated feature-length film.[8]

In 2007, she helped found the Citizens Archive of Pakistan, whose projects center around the preservation of Pakistan's cultural and social heritage. She also serves as the Ambassador for Blood Safety for Pakistan's national blood safety program.[18] Obaid-Chinoy is a TED Fellow and the recipient of the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, the second highest civilian award in Pakistan[27] Time magazine named Sharmeen in its annual list of the 100 most influential people in the world for 2012.[3]

On 22 May 2015, Pakistan's first animated movie, 3 Bahadur, directed by Obaid-Chinoy, a film dedicated to inculcating bravery in the youth of Pakistan, was released by Waadi Animations. The heroes of the film, Amna, Kamil and Saadi were highly anticipated, and despite being shown on only 50 screens in Pakistan, 3 Bahadur became Pakistan's highest grossing animated movie of all time, earning Rs 6.5 million and defeating the record set by Rio 2.[28] 3 Bahadur also screened at the Montreal Film Festival[29] in Canada, in August 2015.

On 11 September 2015, Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers[30] Obaid-Chinoy's feature documentary, co-directed and produced with Geeta Gandbhir, screened at the Toronto International Film Festival[31][32] 2015 for its North American premiere. The film follows the journey of three Bangladeshi women soldiers who are deployed to Haiti as part of the United Nations peacekeeping mission. The film premiered at the Mumbai Film Festival[33] on 29 October 2015 for its Asian premiere and played at the DOC NYC[34] Festival in November 2015.

On 15 February 2016, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy met with the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif in Islamabad to discuss the measures required to plug the loopholes in the law which allow the perpetrators of honour killings to walk free.[35] On 22 February 2016, the first screening of A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness was held at the Prime Minister's Secretariat in Islamabad, opened by remarks made by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and the Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself - concerning the amendments needed to prevent honour killings from occurring in Pakistan.

On 17 February 2016, the film screened at the United Nations Headquarters in New York City as part of a discussion of women and peacekeeping.[36] The event was moderated by Stefen Feller, UN Police Adviser and was attended by a full house, including United Nations Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon and the Permanent Representative of Bangladesh, Masud Bin Momen. The documentary won the Humanitarian Award at the RiverRun International Film Festival on 21 April 2016 and also won the at the Bentonville Film Festival, dated 7 May 2016.[37]

Academy awards[edit]

On 28 February 2016, A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness won her a second Oscar for Best Documentary, Short Subject at the 88th Academy Awards. This is the first Oscar win for her film company SOC Films and the second Oscar for Obaid-Chinoy as Director.[38] Later in 2017, the documentary also bagged an International Emmy Award for Best Documentary.[39]

On 20 May 2016 Song of Lahore was released in select cinemas across New York City and Los Angeles. The cinematic release was accompanied by the release of the official soundtrack which features collaborations with artists such as Wynton Marsalis and Meryl Streep.

"This week the Pakistani prime minister has said that he will change the law on honour killing after watching this film. That is the power of film."

—Obaid-Chinoy while accepting her Oscar for A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness[40]

Her commercial venture "Sulagta Sitara" is a documentary series which was released on ARY Digital in 2016. The series share the stories of cities in Pakistan which have experienced hardship, but still manage to shine bright through the darkness. In January 2017 Obaid-Chinoy was invited to speak at the 47th World Economic Forum, and became the first ever artist to co-chair the WEF's annual meeting.[41][42] This took place between 17–20 January 2017, under the theme "Responsive and Responsible Leadership". The meeting convened more than 2,500 participants from nearly 100 countries to take part in over 300 sessions. On being the first artist and Pakistani to co-chair the annual meeting Obaid-Chinoy said: "It is a great honour to be the first artist ever to be given the opportunity to co-chair the prestigious World Economic Forum at Davos in 2017. I have always believed that the true mark of any thriving society is the amount of investment made in its cultural and artistic infrastructure. There is, now, an increasing recognition of the fact that business and economics must go hand-in-hand with culture and arts for society to move forward and it is with great pride that I will be representing both the art community and my country, Pakistan!"[43]

In 2017 the Aagahi series was launched which educates women about the rights and how to navigate the police and judicial system. Aagahi has won wide acclaim with women sharing the videos and commenting on their usefulness.[44][45]

From 1–9 July 2017 a new work by Obaid-Chinoy - Home 1947 - was inaugurated at the Manchester International Festival. The immersive installation centres on a series of short films featuring families in India and Pakistan, who were among more than 10 million people displaced by Partition. The films see 'home' through the eyes of migrants who left their homes and never returned – 'home' as a physical place, but also as a concept, an ideal, a shared tradition.[46] The exhibition then travelled to Mumbai in August, where it formed part of the Museum of Memories at Godrej India Culture Lab.[47] The Pakistan premiere of Home 1947 took place in October 2017[48] at the Heritage Now festival in Lahore,[49] before transferring, most recently, to Karachi[50] in December 2017 where the exhibition managed to attract over 16,000 visitors.[51]

Her series of documentary films, Look But With Love, released on the Within app in October 2017, is Pakistan's first virtual reality documentary series focusing on the people of Pakistan who are striving to change the socio-political landscape of their communities through causes they are passionate about.[52]


On 23 March 2012, Pakistan's president conferred the second highest civilian award, the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, on Obaid-Chinoy for bringing honor to Pakistan as a filmmaker.[3][53][54][55] Sharmeen was ranked 37th on's list of the 50 Coolest Desis of 2009.[56] In 2012, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy released the 5-part series Ho Yaqeen (To Believe). In 2013, SOC Films and Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy produced a 13 part series for Aaj News titled ‘Aghaz-e-Safar’ which tackled issues affecting ordinary Pakistanis across the country including child abuse, domestic violence, issues of gun violence, water scarcity, land grabbing etc.[57]

In 2014, SOC Films released the 6-part series I Heart Karachi. On 19 April 2015, Song of Lahore,[58] directed and produced by her and Andy Schocken, premiered at Tribeca Film Festival[59] and was the Runner-Up to the Tribeca Audience Choice Award.[60] In September 2015, Broad Green Pictures[61] acquired the U.S distribution rights to Song of Lahore announcing the release of the film in select cinemas in the U.S. In October 2015 the film was submitted for consideration in the documentary feature category for the 2016 Oscars by the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences.[62] Song of Lahore European premiere was at the International Documentary Film Festival Amsterdam (IDFA)[63] from 18 to 29 November 2015. The film had its Middle Eastern premiere at the 12th Annual Dubai International Film Festival[64] in December 2015.

Knight International Journalism Award[edit]

In November 2017 Obaid Chinoy was awarded the 2017 Knight International Journalism Award, by the International Center for Journalists [ICFJ] in Washington, DC. The award recognises Chinoy's efforts to chronicle the human toll of extremism that have made a major impact. "At great personal risk, Obaid-Chinoy and al Masri faced terrorism head on, getting behind the scenes to chronicle untold abuses", said ICFJ President Joyce Barnathan.[65] The Knight International Journalism Award by the ICFJ recognises media professionals who demonstrate a passionate commitment to excellent reporting that makes a difference in the lives of people around the world. For 2017, the recipients include Chinoy, whose work and efforts in highlighting the loophole on the practice of honour killing in Pakistan led to a legislative change in Pakistan.[66]

In 2018 Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy spoke at TED in Vancouver about the impact of mobile cinema which has been traveling across Pakistan screening films for small towns and communities in all provinces. Inculcating critical thinking and offering a wider world view to children and empowering women.[67]

In June 2018 it was announced that the HBO Sports documentary Student Athlete, revealing the hardships endured by NCAA athletes who generate billions for their institutions, would be debuting on 2 October 2018 on the HBO network. Produced by LeBron James, Maverick Carter's SpringHill Entertainment and Steve Stoute's United Masters, the feature-length presentation is directed by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy and Trish Dalton.[68]

In September 2019, Sharmeen unveiled her new animated film, titled Sitara: Let Girls Dream, in theaters in New York. The movie follows the story of Pari, a 14-year-old girl with dreams of becoming a pilot, while growing up in a society that does not allow her to dream.[69] It is produced under the banner of Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy's animation company, Waadi Animations entirely in Pakistan, in association with Vice Studios and Gucci's Chime For Change.[70] The music for the film has been composed by Emmy Award-Winning composer Laura Karpman. Recorded and mixed at the world's most famous and iconic studio, Abbey Road Studios, Karpman's score has been paramount in bringing the film's story and characters to life.[71]

Most recently her animated mini-series 'Stories for children' about inspiring figures in Pakistan looks at local heroes' relationships with their parents.[72] Obaid Chinoy is the honorary consul general for Norway in Karachi, Pakistan.[73]


Year Film Role Director Producer Notes
2002 Terror's Children Reporter Yes Yes
2003 Reinventing the Taliban? Yes Yes
2004 On a Razor's Edge Yes Yes
2005 Women of the Holy Kingdom Yes Yes
2005 Pakistan's Double Game Yes
2006 Highway of Tears Yes
2006 City of Guilt Yes
2006 Cold Comfort Yes Yes
2006 The New Apertheid Yes
2006 Assimilation No, Integration Yes Yes
2007 Afghanistan Unveiled Yes
2007 Birth of a Nation Yes
2008 Iraq: The Lost Generation Yes
2009 Pakistan's Taliban Generation Yes
2010 Transgender: Pakistan's Open Secret Yes
2012 Saving Face Yes Yes Academy Award for Best Short Subject Documentary
2013 Humaira: The Dream Catcher Yes Yes
2014 Seeds of Change Yes Yes
2014 Aghaz e Safar Yes TV series
2015 3 Bahadur Yes Yes
2015 A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness Yes Yes Academy Award for Best Short Subject Documentary
2015 Song of Lahore Yes Yes
2016 3 Bahadur: The Revenge of Baba Balaam Yes Yes
2017 Home 1947 Curator
Look But With Love
2018 3 Bahadur: Rise of the Warriors Yes Yes
2018 Aagahi Creator
2018 Climate Change Animated Series
2019 Sitara: Let Girls Dream Creator & Writer Yes Yes
2021 Ms. Marvel Yes TV series; Filming

Awards and nominations[edit]

Year Award Category Work Result
2007 One World Media Broadcast Journalist of the Year Award Won
2010 Emmy Awards Best Documentary Pakistan's Taliban Generation Won
Livingston Award Young Journalists - Best International Reporting Won
2012 Academy Award Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject Saving Face Won
New York Indian Film Festival Best Documentary Won
SAARC Film Awards Best Documentary Prize Won
Glamour Awards The Lifesaver Won
Government of Pakistan Contribution to arts Hilal-i-Imtiaz (Crescent of Excellence) Honorary
2013 Crystal Award Outstanding efforts in Promoting Human Rights and Women's Issues through Film Won
Emmy Awards Best Documentary Saving Face Won
Outstanding Editing: Documentary and Long Form
Outstanding Science and Technology Programming
Outstanding Cinematography Documentary and Long Form
Outstanding Research
2014 Asia Game Changer Award For eye-opening films that give voice to the voiceless[74][75] Won
2016 Academy Award Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness Won
2017 Emmy Awards Best Documentary A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness Won
Knight International Journalism Award "...for her contribution by making documentaries."[76] Won
2017 Robert F. Kennedy Journalism Award Television-International[77] A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness Won
2018 Smith College Honorary Degree Documentary journalism in advancing human rights[78] Honorary
2018 Eliasson Global Leadership Prize World-class Storytelling Skills[79]


See also[edit]


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External links[edit]