aThe male lead wades across the ocean and waves gently lap the shore, fading out to the cinema screen under the title: Joyland – Pakistan’s entry to the Oscars, when it’s released in the capital Islamabad from Monday after weeks of controversy.
The winner of the Cannes Film Festival Jury Prize tells the love story of the youngest son of a “happy co-parenting family” and a transgender woman he meets after secretly joining an erotic dance scene.
As pressure from militant Islamic groups mounted in the week before its official release, the government first imposed a ban on the film, then announced that it had been acquitted by a censor board review committee. However, the ban is still in place in the province of Punjab, where director Saim Sadiq’s film is set.
Movie-goers came to Islamabad on Monday to judge for themselves whether it was indeed “highly objectionable”.
Blogger Emaan Malik said she loved Joyland and felt it was a reality test for the community. “I don’t understand why the movie was banned in the beginning or why it is still banned in some parts of the country,” she said.
It portrayed certain facts about us and our society that are hard for us to digest. If the reality on screen is so hard you can’t see it and want to put a curtain over your eyes, that’s different. “
The film deals with several issues that Pakistani society suffers from, from discrimination against it Khwaja Sir (transgender), to gender-based violence and age-old norms based on fear of kya kahengay record (What would people say?).
Sanaa Sabry, an architect who came to see the film, said that “everyone should see it” and that it “gives one a lot to think about”.
“The film is very rare but it is a true depiction of Pakistani society. It talks about things that we want to hide or we don’t feel comfortable talking about or ignore and turn a blind eye to,” Sabri said.
Farwa Naqvi, a journalist and psychotherapist, felt that the demands for a ban were a political move by religious parties as the elections approached.
“A film is much more than a passing character,” said Naqvi, who believes banning the film equals curbing critical thinking and preventing people from thinking for themselves.
Many who have seen Joyland have said that the attacks on the film on social media are unfounded.
The propaganda on social media against the movie is completely false and exaggerated. One viewer said: If one were to just believe in it, one would wonder what obscene and sacrilegious things the film shows but there is no such thing in the film – it is just a representation of society.”
Sociologist Nida Kermani said, “It is a shame that the forces of the right have created such an unnecessary controversy around this film. At a time when the rights of transgender people are under attack not only in Pakistan but also in many other parts of the world, it is imperative that A movie like Joyland will get as many viewers as possible.”
Al-Kermani added, “The film depicts how the patriarchal system restricts all members of society, women and Khawaja Siras of course, but also men in different ways.”
Additional reporting by Somaya Hafeez
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