Happening adjacent to Square one, is also Mosaic Film Festival, with an impressive line up of select and Award winning films being screened, from all over the globe.
I had marked in my calendar, long before the festival began, to sneak out of my volunteer arena and watch one of the two Premiered movies in the current festival, Saving Face..
The Mosaic audience is fortunate to be the only Canadian audience to have been treated to a full 54 minute director’s version of Saving Face, instead of the usually running 25 minute short film.
My interest was not just its Academy Award (Oscar Award) crown, but also the issue it highlights, of acid burns in Pakistan, or to be fair in the rest of the subcontinent too.
The ease of availability of the strongest of acids, at no price, and the super speed with which it disfigures the life of the victim, both literally and metaphorically, makes it a handy tool in the hands of its ego-bruised perpetrators. As bluntly put by Dr Jawad,
“Guns need a licence, but acid throwing needs none.”
The film revolves around the real stories of two unfortunate, yet courageous women, Zakia and Rukhsana, for whom the roles they performed were scripted ruthlessly by none other than their own husbands. Almost near psychopaths that these men were, they did not even appear to have any remorse on their actions, in retrospect. Perhaps, had they been in possession of even a streak of humanity, they would not have resorted to this premeditated act.
On the other hand were the two courageous women, who despite of all their miseries, decided not just to live with their heads held high, but to carry on with their missions.
Zakia, after being severely disfigured, came out to get justice, and to fight for legislation against the perpetrators of acid burns. The severity of her burns, had made the reconstruction of her face impossible, as Dr Jawad stated the limitations of plastic surgery,
“After all we are not Gods”.
However where there is a will, there is a way.
Not only was the legislation passed on the punishment for acid throw, and she even saw her husband get two life imprisonments. The reward in return to her was a new lease of life through a prosthesis, which gave her a new face, at least for the outside world.
On the other hand, like majority of helpless women and mothers, Rukhsana, after all the trauma, had chosen to patch up and return to her husband. However, her generous forgiveness was returned back with a brick wall being built between her and her children. Despite the series of misfortunes that destiny had offered her, she chose to continue on with her new pregnancy, and postpone her surgery until delivery. A hope to start a new life with a new baby, rekindled a new desire in her love to live.
I could not hold back tears, when Zakia walked out on the street, for the first time after years, with face revealed and saying, “There is hope in this life again.” Or when Rukhsana holding her new baby boy remarked: “I want him grow up to be a doctor like you, and not like his father.”
I salute them both, for being a true embodiment human resilience, in the face of worst of tortures, and still bouncing back to life with hope. It is this hope that has kept this world revolving for centuries.
Hats off to Dr Jawad, Shairmeen Obeid Chinoy, Daniel Young and the entire team, for saving their own faces too, and for inspiring a passion in others, to come forward and help, in millions worldwide.
The appeal for donations for the cause, by the Festival organisers, saw many signing off cheques and pledges for the cause, at the end of the film.
Perhaps we all need to save our own faces, and do our own bits for this cause and for women abuse at large, whether by screening this film, writing about it, or simply teaching one’s own sons to treat their women with dignity as they grow up.