Pakistan bans its official Oscar entry Joyland over 'highly objectionable material'
Filmmaker Saim Sadiq's Joyland, Pakistan's official entry at the Oscars this year, has been banned in the country over 'highly objectionable material'.
Pakistani authorities have banned filmmaker Saim Sadiq's critically-acclaimed film Joyland alleging that it contains "highly objectionable material". The moves comes months after a certificate was issued clearing the movie for public viewing. Joyland happens to be the country's official entry for the 2023 Academy Awards and has been acclaimed world over in film festivals. Also read: Pakistan makes Cannes debut with Joyland, a love story that subverts unkind traditions
Joyland was granted the certificate for screening by the government on August 17. However, objections were recently raised over its contents. The protests and concerns led to the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting banning the film apparently to avoid a backlash by conservative elements of the country.
In its notification of November 11, the ministry said, “Written complaints were received that the film contains highly objectionable material which do not conform with the social values and moral standards of our society and is clearly repugnant to the norms of ‘decency and morality’ as laid down in Section 9 of the Motion Picture Ordinance, 1979.”
The film is Saim Sadiq's directorial debut. It was supposed to release in theatres across the country on November 18. The film follows a patriarchal family, craving for the birth of a baby boy to continue the family line. The family's youngest son, the protagonist, secretly joins an erotic dance theatre and falls for a trans woman. Joyland features an ensemble cast of Sania Saeed, Ali Junejo, Alina Khan, Sarwat Gilani, Rasti Farooq, Salmaan Peerzada and Sohail Sameer.
Religious hardliners in the country have criticised the film, calling it ‘against Islam’. Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, the only senator of hardline Jamaat-e-Islami in the Pakistan Senate, tweeted, “Pakistan is an Islamic country and no law, ideology or activity can be allowed against.”
However, many actors and social media users have criticised the ban as well. In a Twitter thread, actor Sarwat Gilani slammed the Pakistani authorities for caving into pressure from ‘some malicious people’. Using the hashtag #ReleaseJoyland, she wrote, “Shameful that a Pakistani film made by 200 Pakistanis over 6 years that got standing ovations from Toronto to Cairo to Cannes is being hindered in its own country. Don’t take away this moment of pride and joy from our people! No one’s forcing anyone to watch it! So don’t force anyone to not watch it either! Pakistani viewers are smart enough to know what they want to watch or not. Let Pakistanis decide! Don’t insult their intelligence and our hard work!”
Earlier this year, Joyland became the first Pakistani film to be screened at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize and Queer Palm award. The film was also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Busan International Film Festival.
(With PTI inputs)