Acclaimed at Cannes, the film “Joyland”, featuring a transgender actress, is in the running to represent Pakistan at the Oscars. A nomination called into question after the ban on the theatrical release of the film by the Pakistani government.
Lpressure from extremist political representatives. Last May, the Cannes Film Festival hosted a Pakistani film in the official selection for the first time. This movie is joylandtelling the story of a young man, played by Ali Junejo, from a traditional family who falls in love with a transgender cabaret dancer, played by Alina Khan.
At Cannes, joyland not only received a standing ovation from the audience, but also the Queer Palm prizes and the jury prize in the “Un certain regard” category. The film was also chosen for represent pakistan at the Oscars in the category of “Best international film”. Unfortunately, in his country, Saim Sadiq’s film did not receive the same reception. As it prepared to hit theaters, the Pakistani government announced on November 12 to ban its broadcast. Which could call into question his participation in the Oscars.
In question, complaints received by the Ministry of Information relating to “highly objectionable material that does not conform to social values and moral standards” of Pakistani society. A censorship that had been strongly defended by some members of the Islamist party Jamaat-e-Islami, the latter describing the film as “repulsive” and “cultural terrorism”.
“The Pakistani trans community is angry”
Faced with the ban, the actress transgender Alina Khan expressed her sadness. “It is not against Islam and I don’t understand why Islam can feel endangered by mere moviesshe asked herself to the Guardian. The Pakistani trans community is angry.” A political reaction that is all the more difficult to live with for the actress who herself had to face rejection from her family and society after his coming out. During the standing ovation in Cannes, the emotion was particularly intense for the young woman. “Tears were streaming down my face as I smiled,” she explains. For the first time in my life, I felt that my talent preceded my gender and that I was respected.”
If director Saim Sadiq (who defended his film in the Instagram post below) feared a difficult reception in his country, for activist Shahzadi Rai, the ban was foreseeable. “Of course that was to be expected. We go against religious extremism. I think Pakistan will soon become like Afghanistan“, she assured.
The work has however been awarded many times around the world: in August, Joyland won the prize for the best film from the subcontinent at the Melbourne Indian Film Festival; in October, it was the first prize at the Zagreb film festival according to the Guardian. In competition for the Oscars, the film received the invaluable support of Nobel Peace Prize winner Malala Yousafzaiwho is the executive producer.