Pakistani authorities are reportedly allowing controversial film “Joyland” to be shown in the country after all, following earlier reports that the government had blocked the film’s release a week before it was scheduled to debut in theatres.
“Joyland” is notable for being the first Pakistani movie in history to screen at the prestigious Cannes Film Festival, winning the festival’s Un Certain Regard Jury Prize and the unofficial Queer Palm.
“As the Ranas — a happily patriarchal joint family — yearn for the birth of a baby boy to continue the family line, their youngest son secretly joins an erotic dance theatre and falls for an ambitious trans starlet,” reads the film’s synopsis on the Cannes Film Festival website. “Their impossible love story slowly illuminates the entire Rana family’s desire for a sexual rebellion.”
The film was subsequently submitted as Pakistan’s official entry for the international feature film award at the 2023 Academy Awards; however, “Joyland” needs to run in theatres for a least seven days prior to Nov. 30 in order to remain in Oscar contention.
As CNN reports, back in August Pakistan’s Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) granted a certificate allowing “Joyland” to be released; however, on Friday, Nov. 11, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued a notice declaring it was now “uncertified.”
READ MORE: Pakistan’s ‘Joyland’, Banned In Country, May Still Qualify For The Oscars. Courtesy, France
According to the official notice, the move was made in response to written complaints that the film contains “highly objectional material” that does not align with the “social values and moral standards of our society.”
That decision was met with backlash, with Pakistan’s Human Rights Commission issuing a statement that condemned the government withdrawing certification for “Joyland” as “rabidly transphobic” and violating the filmmakers’ “right to freedom of expression.”
“Pakistan’s audiences have the right to decide what they will watch,” the statement said.
HRCP condemns the government's decision to withdraw its certification of the film #Joyland a week before the film was due to be released. To do so is not only rabidly transphobic, but also violates the film producers' right to freedom of expression. @KhoosatFilms @SenatorMushtaq pic.twitter.com/bw9WM8XEk0
— Human Rights Commission of Pakistan (@HRCP87) November 13, 2022
Saim Sadiq, the film’s director, also took to social media, declaring that the ministry’s reversal was “absolutely unconstitutional and illegal” in an Instagram post.
“Return the right of our citizens to be able to watch the film that has made their country’s cinema proud world over,” he wrote.
READ MORE: Malala Yousafzai ‘Proud To Support’ Pakistan’s Oscar Submission ‘Joyland’
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,” Sadiq added.
After the government’s ban sparked a public outcry, the hashtag #releasejoyland began trending on Twitter.
However, it appears the Pakistani government is now backing down from its previous decision.
According to journalist Rafay Mahmood, a “full board review by the censor board” has resulted in the decision for “Joyland” to be released throughout Pakistan as planned, albeit “with minor cuts.”
After the full board review by the censor board, #Joyaland has been allowed for release all across Pakistan with minor cuts. Distributors are optimistic for November 18 release as initially planned. Congratulations to the entire team and all those who campaigned #ReleaseJoyland
— Rafay Mahmood (@Rafay_Mahmood) November 16, 2022