Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy already has an Oscar. (And an Emmy!) She won in 2012 for Saving Face, a documentary short that she co-directed with Daniel Junge that follows London-based surgeon Mohammad Jawad, who travels to Pakistan to perform plastic surgery on acid attack victims. The film examines the lives of individual survivors and the structural inequalities in Pakistani society that lead to the attacks and their underreporting.
Her subsequent films, 2009’s Children of the Taliban and 2011’s Transgenders: Pakistan’s Open Secret, garnered her even more accolades—an Emmy for Children of the Taliban, along with widespread critical praise.
Now she’s preparing to release Pakistan’s first full-length animated feature. Three Braves is aimed at children—Pakistan’s youth population continues to boom—and focuses on stories of home-grown heroism. According to the Guardian,
The three “braves” are 11-year-old Amna and her best friends, Saadi and Kamil, on the cusp of an adolescence that’s especially poignant in Pakistan, where cultural expectations mean the pathways of girls and boys must diverge. Set in a fictional town, the characters set out to save their community from a menancing villain and his fumbling thugs. But as you’d imagine from the fiction debut of a factual film-maker, an adherence to the authentic is key. All dialogue is in Urdu; even the graffiti looks plausibly peeling. “We have taken special care to ensure that the story remains very local,” she says, “from the way we have designed our characters, to our dialogues and our script. We want children to see characters who look like them and talk like them on the big screen for the first time.”
The animation style is described as more Studio Ghibli than Disney.
Chinoy says that while “on the surface your story may be about princesses and mystical creatures, but there’s always room for subtle messages and themes to run in parallel.”
Three Braves is Pakistan’s first cartoon feature, but not it’s first cartoon. Burkha Avenger debuted last year to rave reviews and international attention. Three Braves too, is sure to make waves. Personally, I’m just excited about cartoons from Pakistan, a country too often represented in American media as an orientalist terror-fantasy. Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy is commited to representing her home country, exploring both it’s social challenges and the work of Pakistani feminists and progressives—and she’s committed to creating good art.