Pakistan’s government has blocked the nationwide release of “Joyland,” the first Pakistani film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival, just a week before it was due to hit theaters in South Asia.
“Joyland” tells a love story between the youngest son of a “happily patriarchal blended family” and a transgender star he meets after secretly joining an erotic dance theater, according to a synopsis on the Cannes Film Festival’s 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 that it was now “uncertified”.
The official statement said that written complaints had been received that the film contains “highly objectionable content” which is not compatible with the “social values and moral norms of our society”.
The The ministry’s notification said that theaters under the CBFC’s jurisdiction cannot screen the film.
“Joyland” won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize and the unofficial Queer Palm at Cannes in May. It was then sent to the Academy Awards as Pakistan’s official award for the International Film Awards. However, it needs to be in theaters for at least seven days before November 30 to remain in contention for the award.
Despite being banned for release in Pakistan, “Joyland” may still qualify for this category if it is “screened in theaters outside the United States and its territories for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial theater for a fee.” according to sources. the school’s official rules.
On Tuesday, a close aide to Pakistan’s prime minister tweeted that a “high-level committee” was evaluating complaints against Joyland and reviewing its ban.
“The committee will evaluate the complaints as well as merit to decide on its solution in Pakistan,” said consultant Salman Sufi.
The review comes after the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan issued a statement Sunday, denouncing the government’s decertification of “Joyland” as “rabidly transphobic” and a violation of the filmmakers’ right to free speech.
“Viewers in Pakistan have the right to decide what they will watch,” the statement said.
Saim Sadiq, the film’s director, claimed in an Instagram post that the ministry’s reversal was “absolutely unconstitutional and illegal,” and urged them to reconsider.
“Give back the right of citizens to be able to watch the film that has made the country’s cinemas proud around the world,” Sadiq wrote.
“Our film was seen and certified by all three censor boards in August 2022. The Eighteenth Amendment of the Pakistani Constitution gives autonomy to all provinces to make their own decisions. Yet the Department suddenly succumbed to pressure from some extremist groups – who have not seen the film – and made a mockery of our federal censorship board by making their decision irrelevant.
The ban has sparked outrage and a campaign on social media with the hashtag #releasejoyland.
Rasti Farooq, one of the actresses in the film, posted on Instagram in support of efforts to get it released.
“I stand by my image, 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,” has also weighed in.
“Joyland has made Pakistan proud by becoming the first South Asian film to win the Jury Prize at the Cannes Film Festival. This is the story of our people told by our people for our people. With the hope that it will be made available to those very people #ReleaseJoyland,” he tweeted.