The auditorium of the university is jam-packed with enthusiastic students and an equally excited faculty. They are all gathered for the screening of the recently released Oscar winning documentary, A Girl in the River: the Price of Forgiveness. The short film, produced by Tina Brown and Sheila Nevins in collaboration with HBO, triggered a controversy in Pakistan immediately after its nomination and recognition at the 88th Academy Awards while competing with the 74 other entries in the category, from across the world. Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, the director of the film, is especially in the line of fire. While a majority of Pakistanis celebrated her success, there were some who condemned her. These critics expressed serious doubts over the Sharmeen’s consecutive victories, for Saving face and A girl in the river at the Oscars. The major criticism is that both her productions highlighted the plight of Pakistani women worldwide. Prior to the screening, some audience in the university auditorium were equally apprehensive about the film. However, most of their assumptions proved wrong after watching it. The documentary unfolds a true story of an 18-year-old girl Saba, hailing from Gujranwala,who was almost killed by her own father and uncle and dumped into a river. Her sin was the violation of the so-called family honour by eloping with her fiancé of four years. Saba had to take this crucial step when her family refused to marry her to the love of her life, as they wanted her to tie the knot with her uncle’s brother-in-law because he was a rich man. What’s inspiring about the narrative is the fighting spirit of the protagonist, Saba, who refused to give up and die a silent death in the river on that dark night. However, it is disturbing to witness that her own father and uncle shot her despite taking vows on the Quran for her life and safety, on her way back to home from the in-laws abode, after Nikah. Saba credited her survival to the false vows on the Holy Book. “God saved me because they cheated on the Quran. I was saved by Allah’s will. They couldn’t kill me, at least then,” she said. The police inspector who investigated the case appreciated her courage openly. “Saba survived because of her presence of mind. She somehow managed to hold the bushes at the river’s edge and swam out as soon as she regained consciousness. Despite being shot in the face and a hand, she reached the nearby gas station and received medical assistance on time.” Overall, the documentary was scripted and shot brilliantly at the original locations. The characters shared the incident earnestly and kept the viewers engaged throughout. It seemed so real that a mystified viewer asked after the screening if the cast featured in the documentary was comprised of actors or the actual victims. Saba and most of her family members, as well as the professionals engaged in the case, seemed to be reliving the moments effortlessly, in their true essence. That is the beauty of Sharmeen’s direction. However, the resolution of the documentary is quite disturbing. Contrary to Saving Face, which concluded with a lot of hope for the acid attack victims and survivors, A girl in the River culminated on a sad note. Saba was pressurised to forgive her murderers by her family and community, and both her father and uncle were released swiftly as per the country’s law. What is even more disconcerting is the pseudo pride of Saba’s father who refused to show any regret even after her daughter forgave him. He vowed to do even worse if any of his other daughters ever tried to follow in the footsteps of Saba in the future. He justified himself by saying, “These girls are my responsibility. I have to feed and protect them. They in return should not play with the pride of the family. That’s an unforgivable sin.” Saba’s father was sure that what he did was fair and holy. He claimed that he is now highly respected because of his ‘daring act’ and every family in his village asks for his other daughters’ hand in marriage after the incident. Ironically, Saba, like many other survivors of honour killing in Pakistan, was abandoned to live under constant threat; threat to her life, her new family and her unborn child. Though she survived the fatal attack, her lively spirit died its own death by the hands of the negligent judicial system and vicious social fabric. As Saba said, “I forgave my father and uncle for the sake of my family and community. But I will never forgive them wholeheartedly. I leave my justice to Allah. He will protect me and perish them for their sin.” Her message is loud and clear… for all the custodians of faith, justice and culture, “Stop acting like a god, be human.” In her capacity, Sharmeen did her job marvellously, it’s our turn now to echo her voice and take it to the point where it will become the voice of all those unheard Sabas who sank silently in the deepest depths of the rivers and the rest who were buried alive, all in the name of honour.