Last week, a Pakistani Canadian shared an Oscar Award with her co-director for their short documentary called Saving Face. It was billed as Pakistan's first Oscar and our chattering elite was ecstatic, congratulating each other on social media networks and counting on this quarter of an Oscar to send the right message about our much-maligned country. It did not seem to matter to them that the documentary deals with the theme of acid attacks on women in Pakistan. It follows the horrific stories of two victims and shows a kind British Pakistani plastic surgeon, who comes all the way to his barbaric homeland to save their faces. Nobody paused to reflect upon the politics of Oscar Awards and what they stand for. Is it just a coincidence that a leading movie channel, also one of the many sponsors for the film, will be airing the documentary on March 8, the International Women's Day?

This is not to suggest that acid attacks are not abhorrent or that the inhuman crime should not be exposed. I'm not saying that documentaries depicting the dark side of our society should not be made and all documentary film-makers from Pakistan should busy themselves making documentaries on good things about their country that send a positive message about it. What I found hard to stomach was the unquestioned celebration of a dubious laurel and the reasons given for that celebration by the privileged Pakistanis. This chattering lot is not happy about the negative light in which Pakistan is projected in the Western media and, interestingly, they embraced the first Oscar-win by a Pakistani as something that would change that negative perception instilled so systematically in the Western mind. Do they think that the Oscar establishment is a resistance movement within the mainstream American media?

They were happy to see their fellow Pakistani decked up in designer jewellery and designer clothes receiving the award, giving a new face to Pakistan. President Asif Zardari lauded the filmmaker for bringing laurels to the country by excelling in film-making and sending a message to the world about Pakistan’s softer image. While commenting on the strengths or weaknesses of the film without watching it would be unfair, it is obvious that when the images of her well-tailored attire and her message to the brave Pakistani women fighting for change has receded in the background, and the gory images of her film are splashed across screens all over the world, it will only reinforce the negative image about the country. All this euphoria about Ms Chinoy projecting the softer image of Pakistan is, therefore, a bit misplaced. Interestingly, none of the chattering celebrating souls have watched the film.

Still, one would not like to fault Ms Chinoy for making a film on the issue, though it remains to be seen how she has chosen to treat her subject. In the trailer of the film posted on its official website, the kind-hearted British Pakistani plastic surgeon says: "I'm a part of this society, which has this disease." Our Oscar-winning heroine herself, who became a Canadian after moving to Toronto in 2004, says that she was inspired by the stance taken by her adopted homeland on human rights issues. But then, of course, regardless of the measure of inspiration derived from her civilised homeland, the film would not have been possible without funding from a host of international NGOs and the long list of sponsors from equally civilised media houses and organisations. The trailer and the sponsors somehow do not inspire any confidence in the strength of the film as an independent attempt to understand and project the issue.

And that is essentially the crux of the problem. Would Ms Chinoy's sponsors have found the cash to fund a film on women and children bombed to death in drone attacks? What are the chances of such a film being nominated for an Oscar? Is it just a coincidence that the one shown saving faces of victims of acid attacks lives in the UK and the film does not highlight similar initiatives by Pakistanis? It is not difficult to decipher inter-connected and inter-dependent interests promoting a certain view of the world that fits into larger political goals that are shared by them. Perhaps, the easiest thing to do for a filmmaker, or any other creative artist for that matter, is to use her skills to reinforce the narrative of the powerful international establishment, the super-rich and the super-famous, those with the funds and the contacts, and awards for those who sing their tune.

Those celebrating Pakistan's first Oscar say that one should not try to read conspiracies into everything. For them, the Oscar Awards are about excellence in film-making and one should not interpret them in the language of politics. They argue that the craft of film-making is independent of the content. They would like to ignore the power of films to shape perceptions and the way Hollywood uses that power to control minds in America and around the world. The Oscar establishment is an essential part of this project of the super-rich, promoting films that strengthen the view of the world that those wishing to control it would like all of us to have. Granted that every award is not decided on these political motivations, but there are many that are. Take the case of The Hurt Locker that was awarded the Oscar Award for the best movie not long ago. It is, perhaps, the best example of using the medium of cinema to twist reality.

This particular Oscar winner unfolds in Iraq and is the story of an American bomb squad that goes around defusing bombs in the occupied country. It humanises the occupying American soldiers as regular guys trying to do their job in a difficult environment. The local Iraqis are constantly in their way, creating problems for them due to their stupidity. The irony is monumental. The American soldiers are not bombing and killing Iraqis, they are defusing bombs and actually saving them. The film not only glorifies the occupying soldiers, it dehumanises the local Iraqis. Is it just a coincidence that it got the best movie award? Was it just because the film was well-made? Is Saving Face just a well-made film that the Oscar establishment honoured? We will find out on March 8, the International Women's Day, when it is aired.

The writer is a freelance columnist.

Email: hazirjalees@hotmail.com