Film Joyland, which received global accolades for its portrayal of a transgender love affair, was banned for ‘highly objectionable material. But after much public backlash, the film is all set to release in Pakistani cinemas after recommended cuts by the committee. Still, the Punjab government has placed a ban on its release.
Saim Sadiq makes his directing debut with Joyland. On November 18, it was supposed to release in theatres all around Pakistan. The film is about a patriarchal family that desires a baby boy to carry on their family line. When the family’s youngest son, the main character, covertly joins a dance company and develops feelings for a trans woman, things take an intriguing turn.
Sania Saeed, Ali Junejo, Alina Khan, Sarwat Gilani, Rasti Farooq, Salmaan Peerzada, and Sohail Sameer are among the cast members of Joyland.
At Cannes in May, Joyland won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize and the unofficial Queer Palm. The official entry for Pakistan for the foreign feature film award was then sent to the Oscars. To be eligible for the award, it needs to be released in theatres for at least seven days prior to November 30.
In August, the nation’s central and regional censor boards approved the movie. Before a movie may be exhibited in a theatre, it must be approved by both the federal and provincial censor boards.
But after receiving a complaint from a religious party leader, the federal censor board changed its mind and said the film was inappropriate for “the whole of Pakistan.”
The ban was imposed on Friday and the statement claimed that “written complaints were received that the picture contains very unacceptable material that does not conform with the social values and moral standards of our society.”
In a tweet, Senator Mushtaq Ahmad Khan of the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party applauded the ban and stated that Pakistan, an Islamic nation, must uphold Islamic values and practices.
Public Reaction to Joyland Ban
A close aide to Pakistan’s prime minister tweeted on Tuesday that a “high-level committee” was examining Joyland’s ban and investigating the complaints made against it.
Salman Sufi, the adviser, stated that the committee would weigh the pros and complaints before deciding whether to distribute the film in Pakistan.
The review comes after the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan condemned the government’s decision to revoke certification for Joyland as “rabidly transphobic” and a breach of the film’s creators’ freedom of expression in a statement it issued on Sunday.
“Pakistan’s audiences have the right to decide what they will watch,” the statement said.
Saim Sadiq, the movie’s director, argued in a post on Instagram that the ministry’s reversal was “absolutely unconstitutional and illegal” and urged them to reconsider.
“Return the right of our citizens to be able to watch the film that has made their country’s cinema proud the world over,” Sadiq wrote.
The ban inspired a social media campaign with the hashtag #releasejoyland and a public uproar. Rasti Farooq, one of the actresses in the movie, posted on Instagram supporting efforts to have it released.
“I stand by my film and everything that it says with every fiber of my being,” she said.
Reversal of the Ban
The news of the reversal of the ban was announced on Twitter and in an interview with the AP news agency by Salman Sufi, the head of Pakistani Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s Strategic Reforms section. Salman Sufi has been a strong opponent of the ban. According to him, the movie would now be able to be released, albeit with a few small changes.
On November 16, journalist Rafay Mahmood, who writes for Express Tribune, tweeted, “After the full board review by the censor board, #Joyland has been allowed for release across Pakistan with minor cuts. Distributors are optimistic about November 18 release as initially planned. Congratulations to the entire team and all those who campaigned.” He also mentioned that the film was never banned officially; however, now film distributors await a NOC certificate to take things further.