‘Joyland’ ban: Pakistan blocks national release of sexual liberation film

Islamabad, Pakistan

The Pakistani government has blocked the release of “Joyland,” the first Pakistani film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival, a week before it hits theaters in the South Asian country.

“Joyland” tells a love story between the young son of a “patriarchal happy joint family” and a transgender starlet he meets after sneaking into an erotic dance theater, according to a synopsis on the Cannes Film Festival website.

In August, the country’s Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) issued a certificate allowing the film to be released, but on Friday Pakistan’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued a statement saying it was now “uncertified”.

The official statement said that written complaints were received that the film contains “extremely objective material” which is not in line with the “social values ​​and moral standards of our society”.

The The ministry’s release said cinemas under the jurisdiction of the CBFC cannot screen the film.

“Joyland” won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize and the unofficial Queer Palm at Cannes in May. It was then submitted to the Oscars as Pakistan’s official entry for the international feature film award. However, it must be in theaters for seven days before November 30 to remain in the running for the awards.

Despite being banned for release in Pakistan, “Joyland” could qualify under this category “if it is shown outside the United States and its territories for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial cinema for paid admission”, “theatrically”. Official rules of the academy.

On Tuesday, a close aide to Pakistan’s prime minister he tweeted A “high-level committee” was assessing the complaints against Joyland and reviewing his ban.

“The committee will evaluate the complaints and merits to decide on the release in Pakistan,” said consultant Salman Sufi.

The review comes after the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan released a statement on Sunday, condemning the government’s decertification of “Joyland” as “transphobic rage” and a violation of the film producers’ right to freedom of expression.

“Pakistani viewers have the right to decide what they will watch,” the statement said.

The film’s director, Saim Sadiq, argued in a post on Instagram that the ministry’s withdrawal was “absolutely unconstitutional and illegal” and urged them to reconsider.

“Give back to our citizens the right to watch the film that has made their country’s cinema proud all over the world,” Sadiq wrote.

“Our film was seen and certified by three censor boards in August 2022. The 18th amendment of the constitution of Pakistan gives autonomy to all provinces to make their own decisions. However, the Ministry suddenly backed down due to pressure from some extremist factions – who have not seen the film – and He mocked our federal censorship board by making their decision irrelevant.”

The ban has sparked public outcry and a social media campaign using the hashtag #releasejoyland.

Rasti Farooq, one of the actors in the film, took to Instagram to support the release efforts.

“I stand behind my film and everything it says with every fiber of my being,” said Farooq.

Pakistani actor Humayun Saeed, who stars in the fifth season of the Netflix series “The Crown,” has also been cast.

“Joyland has made Pakistan proud by becoming the first South Asian film to win the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. The history of our people is told by our people for our people. Hoping #ReleaseJoyland will be available to those people,” he said he tweeted.