While Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy has undoubtedly made Pakistan proud by winning an Oscar at the 84th annual Academy Awards in Los Angeles this month, it might come as a surprise that she is not actually the first Pakistani to win the prestigious award.
Mir Zafar Ali, a Karachiite like Sharmeen, remains Pakistan’s unsung Oscar hero who earned the honour back in 2007 for his part as co-director of the team that won the Academy Award for Best Visual Effects for ‘The Golden Compass’.
In addition to winning the Academy Award, the film also picked up a Bafta (British Academy of Film and Television Arts) Award. Though Mir’s achievement did not grab the spotlight that Sharmeen’s win has managed to capture, his accomplishment was nonetheless featured in several Pakistani daily newspapers and popular blogs.
While the praise showered on Sharmeen remains undeniably and extremely well-deserved, allowing Mir’s achievement to slip by unnoticed is a glaring folly on the part of the government, and one that is likely to hurt the visual effects director. To begin with, Mir should also be conferred with the highest civil award like Sharmeen — such a gesture would go a long way in preserving and encouraging talent in Pakistan. Moreover, the Sharmeen-Mir duo, if properly recognised, can be instrumental in revolutionising the country’s lacklustre film industry.
While ‘The News’ was unable to contact Mir, a blog published in 2009 commented, “The unfortunate bit, however, is the fact that even as Mir Zafar Ali remains a well-known name in the digital business in the United States of America, his success story is one that many in Pakistan are simply unaware of.”
Mir has been part of sixteen different movie projects since 2000. Like Sharmeen, he is a homegrown product and not a naturalised American, and as such is a worthy son of Pakistan and one who the entire country should be proud of.
Mir studied Computer Sciences from the Foundation for Advancement of Science and Technology (Fast) in Karachi, and worked for a number of local companies including Sharp Image, Nucleus Studios and Carrot before proceeding to the United States in 2000, where he enrolled at Savannah College of Art and Design in Georgia where he specialised in visual effects.
In 2003, soon after completing his BFA in Computer Animation, Mir was offered a position at Digital Domain — a company best-known for its contribution to the visual effects in films such as Titanic, Fight Club and The Fifth Element to name just a few.
On the basis of his acquired expertise, Mir has followed his passion right through to the red carpet, and The Golden Compass’s Oscar triumph in 2007 validates the fact that dreams can be realised when backed with hard work and dedication.
Other movies to his credit are: The Cabin in the Woods (2011), X-Men: First Class (2011), Hop (2011), Yogi Bear (2011), Aliens in the Attic (2009), Island of the Lost (2009), The Mummy (2008), The Incredible Hulk (2008), The Golden Compass (2007), Surf’s Up (2007), Spider-Man 3 (2007), Ghost Rider (2007), Open Season (2006), Monster House (2006), Stealth (2005), and The Day After Tomorrow (2004).