Pakistan Blocks Release Of Transgender Love Story ‘Joyland,’ Creator Seeks Workaround For Oscar Bid

Pakistan Blocks Release Of Transgender Love Story ‘Joyland,’ Creator Seeks Workaround For Oscar Bid

The first Pakistani movie to debut at Cannes Film Festival, “Joyland,” has been banned in its home country due to themes that the government deemed inappropriate.

“Joyland” got yanked from the schedule just one week before it was supposed to premiere in theaters, per CNN. The country’s Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) granted a certificate permitting the movie’s release as of this summer, but on Friday that decision changed.

Pakistan’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued a notice saying “Joyland” was now “uncertified” due to the movie’s content, which features a transgender love story.

The notice cited complaints accusing the film of having “highly objectionable material” that contradicts “social values and moral standards of our society.”

According to the movie’s page on the Cannes website, “Joyland” is about “a happily patriarchal joint family” who “yearn for the birth of a baby boy to continue the family line.” But then, “their youngest son secretly joins an erotic dance theatre and falls for an ambitious trans starlet. Their impossible love story slowly illuminates the entire Rana family’s desire for a sexual rebellion.”

“Joyland” won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize and the unofficial Queer Palm at Cannes in May, the publication noted. It was submitted to the Oscars for consideration as Pakistan’s official entry. Now that it won’t be released locally as planned, “Joyland” runs the risk of being disqualified as it must be shown in theaters for at least seven days before November 30 to be eligible for the international feature film award.

Filmmakers could find a workaround if they’re able to release “Joyland” in another country besides the United States before that deadline. 

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan released a statement on the withdrawal of certification for “Joyland” as “rabidly transphobic.” The organization also accused the Pakistani government of “[violating] the film producers’ right to freedom of expression.” 

Director Saim Sadiq also complained about the decision on Instagram, saying the ban was “absolutely unconstitutional and illegal.”

“Return the right of our citizens to be able to watch the film that has made their country’s cinema proud world over,” Sadiq shared.

“Our film got seen and certified by all three censor boards in August 2022. The 18th amendment in the Pakistani constitution gives all of provinces the autonomy to make their own decision. Yet the Ministry suddenly caved under pressure from a few extremist factions – who have not seen the film – and made a mockery of our federal censor board by rendering their decision irrelevant.”

“Joyland” star Alina Khan, who is the first trans-identifying Pakistani person to star in a movie, also reacted strongly to the ban. 

“I’ve been very sad. There’s nothing against Islam and I don’t understand how Islam can get endangered by mere films,” Khan told The Guardian. “The Pakistani trans community was also very upset.”

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