The Girl in the River Academy Award winner documents a father and uncle who shot Saba, age 18, because she married a boy she loved without their permission. The Punjabi film was made by one of the few Pakistani women directors in a country with about 1,000 honor killings each year. Saba’s uncle objected to the marriage because the groom’s family was less prosperous than the bride’s so they beat her then shot her in the face and arm and threw her in a bag in the river. Saba, age 19, vowed not to forgive them but was pressured to do so by her brother-in-law, the male elder in her husband’s family, in order to keep her relatives out of prison and get along with neighbors. Her husband was very loving, telling her, “I’d die without you.” Saba said in her heart she didn’t forgive her father and uncle.
Saba’s mother and sister felt she dishonored their family and her father, a devout Muslim, said he had to do it for the sake of honor and respect. He said he gained more respect in the community because he shot his daughter and implied that his wife had no say in the matter when he said, “She only my wife.” The forgiveness law allows thousands of killers to avoid punishment. The documentary prompted Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to call for a law to stop the killings, partly because the shooters were not punished. He stated, “There is no honor in honor killing. In fact there can be nothing more brutal than engaging in killing and calling it honor.”