The Pakistani government blocked the nationwide release of “Joyland,” the first Pakistani film to be shown at the Cannes Film Festival, just a week before it was due to hit theaters in the South Asian country.
“Joyland” tells a love story between the youngest son of “a happily-knit patriarchal family” and a transgender star he meets after secretly joining a lap dance theater, according to a report. synopsis on the Cannes Film Festival website.
In August, the country’s Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) granted a certificate allowing the film to be released, but on Friday Pakistan’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued a notice saying it was now “uncertified”.
The official statement said written complaints were received that the film contains “highly objectionable material” that does not conform to the “social values and moral standards of our society.”
the The notice from the ministry said that theaters under the jurisdiction of CBFC are not allowed to show the film.
“Joyland” won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize and the unofficial Queer Palm at Cannes in May. It was then submitted to the Oscars as Pakistan’s official entry for the international feature film award. However, it must be in theaters for at least seven days before November 30 to keep competing for awards.
Despite being banned from release in Pakistan, “Joyland” could still qualify in this category if it is “shown in theaters outside of the US and its territories for at least seven consecutive days in a paid-admission commercial theater ”, according to the official academy rules.
On Tuesday, a close aid to Pakistan’s prime minister tweeted that a “high-level committee” was evaluating the allegations against Joyland and reviewing her ban.
“The committee will assess the complaints and the merits to decide on their release in Pakistan,” adviser Salman Sufi said.
The review comes after the Pakistan Human Rights Commission published a statement on Sunday, condemning the government’s decertification of “Joyland” as “ragingly transphobic” and a violation of film producers’ right to free expression.
“Audiences in Pakistan have the right to decide what they will see,” the statement said.
Saim Sadiq, the director of the film, plot in a post on Instagram that the ministry’s reversal was “absolutely unconstitutional and illegal,” and urged them to reconsider.
“Restore the right of our citizens to be able to see the film that has made their country’s cinema proud throughout the world,” Sadiq wrote.
“Our film was viewed and certified by all three censorship boards in August 2022. The 18th amendment to the Pakistani constitution gives all provinces the autonomy to make their own decisions. However, the Ministry obviously caved under pressure from some extremist factions, who have not seen the film, and mocked our federal board of censorship by making their decision irrelevant.”
The ban has sparked a public outcry and a social media campaign using the hashtag #releasejoyland.
Rasti Farooq, one of the actresses in the film, aware on Instagram supporting efforts to get it posted.
“I defend my film, and everything it says, with every fiber of my being,” Farooq said.
Pakistani actor Humayun Saeed, who stars in the fifth season of the Netflix series “The Crown”, also weighed in.
“Joyland has done Pakistan proud by becoming the first South Asian film to win the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. It is a story of our people told by our people for our people. In the hope that it will be accessible to these same people #ReleaseJoyland,” he said. tweeted.
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