Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is a Pakistani-Canadian journalist, actor, filmmaker, and activist who is honored with the Hilal-e-Imtiaz, the second-highest civilian honour of Pakistan. Time magazine named her among the top 100 most influential people in the world in 2012. Sharmeen is a recipient of two Academy Awards, six Emmy Awards including the International Emmy Award for Current Affairs Documentary category for the films, Pakistan’s Taliban Generation and the documentary Saving Face (2012), and a Knight International Journalism Award. She is the first Pakistani to get an Academy Award, and one of just eleven female directors to receive an Oscar for a non-fiction film.
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy was born on Sunday, 12 November 1978 (age 58 years; as of 2021) in Karachi, Pakistan. Her zodiac sign is Scorpio. She attended Convent of Jesus and Mary, Karachi, Pakistan for her primary and Karachi Grammar School, Karachi, Pakistan for receiving her secondary education. Soon after completing her primary and secondary studies in Pakistan, she travelled to the United States to complete her education. Sharmeen graduated from Smith College in Massachusetts, USA, with a bachelor’s degree in Economics and Government. She later got a master’s degree from Stanford University in both communication and international policy studies.
Height (approx.): 5′ 5″
Eye Colour: Black
Hair Colour: Black
Parents & Siblings
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s fathers’ name is Sheikh Obaid, and he is a business. Her mother’s name is Saba Obaid and she is a social worker.
Husband & Children
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy was married to Tariq Aman, but her wedding did not last long and she got divorced in 2006.
In 2017, Sharmeen got married to Fahd Kamal Chinoy who is the Chief Executive Officer & Executive Director at Pakistan Cables Ltd.. The coupe is blessed with a daughter together. Her daughter’s name is Amelia Chinoy.
Chinoy became interested in directing and filmmaking while pursuing her master’s degree. Sharmeen’s first film as a director, “Terror’s Children,” was released in 2003 for The New York Times. Sharmeen explained her reasoning for visualizing the story as,
After September 11th I realized that people in the West really had no concept about life in Pakistan or in Afghanistan. I wanted people to see beyond the rhetoric of war, so I wrote a story for a newspaper I was freelancing for about Afghan refugee children. But I felt that the story needed to be told visually, that it would be far more compelling to an American audience if it were. That is why I decided to make a documentary film on the children in refugee camps in Pakistan. I wanted to transport the viewers to Pakistan; I wanted them to feel the pain that young Afghan children were feeling by taking them on a journey inside the refugee camps. In Terror’s Children, my aim was to address issues relating to the psychological impact of war, on education, and the poverty and day to day survival of these children.”
She made another film, “Reinventing the Taliban?” in 2003, about the rise of militant Islamic fundamentalism in Pakistan. “Terror’s Children” and “Reinventing the Taliban?” by Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy were both award-winning films in 2003. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy got numerous threats for making films on such sensitive subjects, but she was never hesitant to speak out through her work. She continued to present society’s unseen reality through her films, including “On a Razor’s Edge,” “Women of the Holy Kingdom,” “Pakistan’s Double Game,” “Highway of Tears,” “Assimilation No,” “Integration Yes,” “Iraq: The Lost Generation,” “Pakistan’s Taliban Generation,” and “Transgender: Pakistan’s Open Secret.” When asked about her filmmaking experience in Pakistan during an interview, she stated,
The obstacles faced by documentary filmmakers in Pakistan have more to do with access to funding as compared to gender bias or any other forms of prejudice. We do not have a history of documentary films in Pakistan, thus TV channels and production houses are not forthcoming with investments. Pakistani’s have always displayed an interest in such content, and we have a multitude of stories to tell with a community that is eager to share them.”
She further added,
While we did not encounter any physical danger whilst shooting Saving Face, we did have to struggle with the mindset of local communities. During the first few days of shooting we faced difficulty when trying to connect with communities and reaching out to survivors. However once we settled into the towns and began making connections we did not face any further obstacles.”
Sharmeen returned to Pakistan in 2004 and secured a long-term contract with the Public Broadcasting Service (PBS) TV series ‘Frontline World.’ For the next five years, she reported “On a Razor’s Edge,” produced several radio stories, internet videos, and penned “Dispatches” from Pakistan. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy received Pakistan’s first Oscar in 2012 for her documentary film “Saving Face.” Sharmeen Obaid’s film, directed and produced by her, tells the tale of two women who were attacked by acid and their quest for justice and healing, which resulted in a system for better access and more specialists doing reconstructive surgery on survivors. The video was inspired on the life of acid victim Fakhra Younus, who committed herself in 2012. The film was well-received around the world, and it received a number of international honours, including an Emmy Award and the 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject. Chinoy received Pakistan’s first Oscar in 2012 for her documentary film “Saving Face.” Sharmeen Obaid’s film, directed and produced by her, tells the tale of two women who were attacked by acid and their quest for justice and healing, which resulted in a system for better access and more specialists doing reconstructive surgery on survivors. The video was inspired on the life of acid victim Fakhra Younus, who committed herself in 2012. The film was well-received around the world, and it received a number of international honours, including an Emmy Award and the 2012 Academy Award for Best Documentary Short Subject.
The Canadian government honoured her with a Queen Elizabeth II Diamond Jubilee in 2013 for her efforts in documentary filmmaking, and the World Economic Forum honoured her with a Crystal Award at their annual summit in Davos. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy won a total of six Emmy Awards for her documentary film “Saving Face” that same year. Best Documentary, Outstanding Editing: Documentary and Long Form, Outstanding Science and Technology Programming, Outstanding Cinematography Documentary and Long Form, and Outstanding Research were among the honours she received.
Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy was awarded the “Hilal-e-Imtiaz” on 23 March 2012, for her dedicated service to Pakistani cinema and global representation. The Hilal-e-Imtiaz is Pakistan’s second-highest civilian honour, bestowed by the Pakistan government for persons who have made an extremely outstanding contribution to Pakistan’s security or national interests, international peace, cultural or other significant public endeavors. She, in cooperation with SOC Films, produced a 13-part series named ‘Aghaz-e-Safar’ for Aaj News in 2013. The series focuses on issues impacting regular Pakistanis around the country, such as child maltreatment, domestic violence, gun violence, water scarcity, and land grabs. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is the writer, director, and producer of “3 Bahadur,” Pakistan’s first feature-length animated film. She was the first Pakistani to create and distribute a computer-generated film in Pakistan. The plot revolves around three eleven-year-old friends, Amna, Saadi, and Kamil, who emerge from the most unlikely of places to defend their town from the criminal overload plague. On May 22, 2015, the film was released countrywide under the brand of ARY Films, and it became Pakistan’s highest-grossing animated picture. Sharmeen revealed her inspiration for this film while speaking about it.
I had wanted to do something for the children for a long time. Pakistan has a very young population and a booming media industry, but we have stopped producing quality content for children. All of our content is imported, from animation to a variety of shows, and thus our youth grows up with mentors and heroes that are far removed from what they see around them in life.”
Following the global success of Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy’s “3 Bahadur,” a sequel titled “3 Bahadur: The Revenge of Baba Balaam” was also published in 2016. The film was first released on YouTube on 3 August 2016, and then in theatres on 15 December 2016. The sequel was just as successful as the original, and it was especially popular with children. The third instalment in the 3 Bahadur franchise, 3 Bahadur: Rise of the Warriors, was also released in 2018.
Sharmeen Obaid is an expert in presenting female-oriented topics in her films and is involved with a variety of international non-profit organisations that assist women all over the world. On February 15, 2016, Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy and Pakistan’s then-Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, met at the Prime Minister’s Secretariat in Islamabad for an official meeting. Sharmeen Obaid and Nawaz Sharif discussed the steps that should be taken to close the legal gaps that allow the perpetrators of honor killings to live freely. Following the discussion, a special screening of Sharmeen’s directorial debut, ‘
It was held in the Prime Minister’s Secretariat in Islamabad. The documentary was also shown at the United Nations Headquarters in New York. The film’s plot centres around a nineteen-year-old girl who survived her father and uncle’s honour killing, and it addresses the prevalent topic of honour killing in the Asian subcontinent. Chinoy expressed worry about the changes that must be made in Pakistan to prevent honour killings when speaking to audiences in Islamabad and New York. She also discussed concerns of women’s discrimination and peacekeeping. She described her film as
It is a positive story about Pakistan on two accounts: firstly, it portrays how a Pakistani-British doctor comes to treat them and it also discusses, in great depth, the parliament’s decision to pass a bill on acid violence. The film assisted in the trial and conviction of one of the perpetrators of acid violence.”
She further added,
I think that “SF” combats the linear terms in which Pakistan is projected by addressing this very paradox. As a film, it achieves two things; first, it addresses a growing issue that is in dire need of awareness and collective action and second, it presents a nuanced image of Pakistan, one in which a heinous act is being addressed by a number of extraordinary people. It shows that Pakistan is not simply a nation in flux; it is nation that is in the process of fixing its own problems.”
Although the film “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” won international acclaim and an Oscar, it did not gain the support it need in Pakistan. A substantial segment of the Pakistani population responded against Sharmeen for making a film that, in their opinion, conveys a false image of Pakistan globally. #WeDisownSharmeen trended on social media, and her supporters came to her defense, criticizing her detractors and hailing her for giving voice to the voiceless. Sharmeen Obaid won her second Academy Award for her documentary film “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness” in 2016. The film was chosen together with ten other submissions from a pool of 74 films submitted from all across the world. In her post-Oscars statement, Sharmeen stated,
The Oscar has reinforced my intent to present stories that highlight narratives that are not present in the mainstream media; my content and the topics I choose will continue to centre around civil and human rights. It’s possible to present a positive image of Pakistan whilst still maintaining one journalistic ethics, and “SF” intends to do exactly that.”
Obaid debuted her commercial business under the banner of ARY Digital in 2016. “Sulagta Sitara” is a project that chronicles the experiences of individuals from various places in Pakistan who worked hard enough to regain their cities. Sharmeen released her new animated picture, “Sitara: Let Girls Dream,” in New York theatres in September 2019. The film depicts the narrative of Pari, a 14-year-old girl who aspires to be a pilot despite growing up in a strict country. Waadi Animations, owned by Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, collaborated with Vice Studios and Gucci’s Chime For Change to make the film. Laura Karpman, an Emmy Award-winning composer, composed the film’s music. The film “Sitara: Let Girls Dream” addresses the topic of child marriage.
Kevin Feige, President of Marvel Studios, named Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy as one of four directors of the Disney+ Marvel franchise American television miniseries “Ms. Marvel” in September 2020. Adil El Arbi, Bilall Fallah, and Meera Menon are the other three directors. Ms. Marvel is the narrative of Kamala Khan, a Pakistani-American adolescent living in New Jersey. The character of Kamala Khan first debuted in Marvel Comics in 2014. She is Marvel Studios’ first Muslim hero onscreen. Sharmeen Obaid rushed to Instagram to inform her followers of the news. She wrote in the description of her Instagram image,
“It’s Official! This has been many months in the making…Proud to be part of the team that brings to life Marvel’s newest superhero & one which will resonate with many young people around the world as they see a reflection of themselves in Ms. Marvel! Let the Magic begin….,”
Awards, Honours, Achievements
Academy Awards, USA
• 2016: Oscar for Best Documentary, Short Subject for “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”
• 2012: Oscar for Best Documentary, Short Subjects for “Saving Face”
Abu Dhabi Film Festival
• 2012: Audience Choice Award for Best Documentary for “Saving Face”
Alfred I. duPont-Columbia University Awards
• 2010: duPont-Columbia Award for Best Documentary series for “Frontline/World”
American Short Film Awards
• 2012: Jury Award for Best Documentary Short Film for “Saving Face”
• 2012: Audience Award for Best Documentary Short Film for “Saving Face”
Banff Television Festival
• 2004: Special Jury Prize for Television Documentary for Reinventing the Taliban?
• 2004: Banff Rockie Award by Special Jury Prize
Bentonville Film Festival
• 2016: Jury Award for Best Documentary for “A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers”
Documentary Edge Festival
• 2016: World Cinema Award for Best International Short for “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”
Hollywood International Independent Documentary Awards
• 2017: Award of Excellence – September as Producers for “Ladies First”
International Documentary Association
• 2012: IDA Award for Best Short for “Saving Face”
International Emmy Awards
• 2014: Emmy Award for Documentary “Pakistan’s Taliban Generation”
• 2010: Emmy Award on Current Affairs for “Frontline/World”
Juliane Bartel Awards, DE
• 2012:Juliane Bartel Medienpreis for Documentary “Saving Face”
Los Angeles Independent Film Festival Awards
• 2017: LAIFF September Award for Best Woman Filmmaker for “Ladies First”
News & Documentary Emmy Awards
• 2017: Emmy for Best Documentary for “A Girl in the River: The Price of Forgiveness”
• 2013: Emmy for Outstanding Science and Technology Programming for “Saving Face”
One World Media Awards
• 2007: Won Broadcast Journalist of the Year
RiverRun International Film Festival
• 2016: Jury Prize Humanitarian Award for “A Journey of a Thousand Miles: Peacekeepers”
Other Honours & Achievements
• First Pakistani to win an Academy Award.
• One of only eleven female directors who have ever won an Oscar for a non-fiction film.
• First non-American to win the Livingston Award for Young Journalists
• First artist to co-chair the World Economic Forum
• Awarded Hilal-e-Imtiaz by the Pakistani President in 2012
• Won World Economic Forum’s Crystal Award at Davos in 2013
• Honoured with Knight International Journalism Award in 2017
- Since 2007, Obaid Chinoy has served as the Ambassador for Blood Safety for Pakistan’s national blood safety programme. She joined the founding committee of The Citizens Archive of Pakistan (CAP), a non-profit organisation dedicated to cultural and historic preservation in Pakistan, the same year.
- In January 2017, she was invited to speak at the 47th World Economic Forum and became the first artist to co-chair the WEF’s annual conference. The meeting, which took place from the 17th to the 20th of January 2017, had over 2,500 attendees from nearly 100 nations taking part in over 300 sessions on the theme “Responsive and Responsible Leadership.” Obaid-Chinoy, who is the first artist and Pakistani to co-chair the annual meeting, stated,
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, 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!”
- Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy, a two-time Oscar winner, received the 2017 Knight International Journalism Award from the International Center for Journalists [ICFJ] in Washington, DC in November 2017. The award was given in recognition of her efforts to document the human toll of extremism, which have had a significant impact. The International Center for Journalists honours media practitioners who display an obsessive commitment to creative reporting that makes a difference in the lives of people all over the world with The Knight International Journalism Award (ICFJ). Sharmeen’s efforts in identifying a loophole in the practise of honour killing in Pakistan resulted in a legislative amendment in Pakistan.
- Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is an inspiration and role model for many filmmakers throughout the world. She is noted for bringing up unspoken societal issues and presenting with complete expertise on TV. Sharmeen told her fans to concentrate on their work and ignore the negativity that holds them back. She stated,
My advice to young directors would be to pay no heed to naysayers; don’t wait for an opportunity to open up, instead be proactive. Use whatever resources are available to you and continue to practice and persevere. Whether it is using your cell phone instead of a fancy camera, or submitting a short film to a local festival, do the best with what you have. Spend time learning and perfecting your craft, and don’t let your ego get the best of you.”
- Sharmeen is a strong believer in and champion of feminism, in addition to being a talented filmmaker. In an interview, she stated,
For me, feminism is the feeling of being safe; in your skin, in your house, in the office and on the streets. Feminism is the pursuit of these conditions and all of the struggles that you have to go through in order to ensure that they are available to yourself and other women. Personally, I look up to Mukhtaran Bibi, an enigmatic Pakistani women’s rights activist. I have had the privilege of meeting with her and continue to be inspired by her story and unwavering determination to seek justice.”
- Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is a well-known journalist around the world. She’d had the opportunity to work with and communicate with people from all around the world. She narrated while presenting her filmmaking experience in many nations,
As a journalist, I have been very lucky to have had the opportunity to report from a variety of countries. Each film came with its own set of challenges, with some countries proving to be more difficult than others. My experiences while shooting the underground women’s movement in Saudi Arabia were particularly interesting. We were always being watched, we’re unable to move about freely and were often unable to do the simplest of things on our own; at one point we were unable to check into a hotel because we were not escorted by a male representative. My all-female crew and I soon realised that our film was equally documenting our own struggles while shooting, as it was exploring the women’s movement.”