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‘Joyland’ Ban: All About the Controversy & Reactions From the Cast & Filmmaker

'Joyland' was due to release in Pakistan on 18 November.

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Pakistan's official 2023 Oscars entry, Joyland, has been banned by the country's authorities over its 'highly objectionable' and 'repugnant' material. The makers of the film are now raising their voices against the ban and calling it 'absolutely unconstitutional and illegal’.

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The controversy 

The film was due to release in Pakistan on 18 November. As per reports, Pakistan's censor board issued a censor certificate to the movie on 17 August, for public viewing. But the decision was reversed later. 


According to a report by Hindustan Times, the ministry said, “Written complaints were received that the film contains highly objectionable material which do not conform with the social values and moral standards of our society and is clearly repugnant to the norms of ‘decency and morality’ as laid down in Section 9 of the Motion Picture Ordinance, 1979.”

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Filmmaker Saim Sadiq Reacts: 

He wrote in his statement, "We — as a team — are gutted by this development but fully intend to raise our voice against the grave injustice. I am compelled to point out that this sudden U-turn by the Pakistan Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is absolutely unconstitutional and illegal. Our film got seen and certified by all three censor boards in August 2022. The 18th amendment in the Pakistani constitution gives all 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," he added.

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'Joyland' Actor Sarwat Gilani Reacts: 

Sarwat Gilani, who is an actor in the film went on to say, “There’s a paid smear campaign doing rounds against #Joyland, a film that made history for Pakistani cinema, got passed by all censor boards but now authorities are caving into pressure from some malicious people who have not even seen the film.”

Twitter reacts:

Many called the ban "senseless." A Twitter user went on to write, "Senseless ban on the film Joyland. Those few pressurising the government to ban it by running smear campaigns on the social media won’t be forced to watch it. But the government succumbing to the pressure? Unbelievable!"

Another Twitter user wrote, "Please be part of the solution. Please allow our people the right to enjoy our own art! Please know, silence gives strength to the problem. We are protecting our freedom. Our freedom to make art, and watch art. Our freedom to think for ourselves whether we like a film or not!"

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Critics Reviews

The film made history by being the first Pakistani film to be selected as an official entry at the Cannes film festival where it won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize and Queer Palm award. The film was also screened at the Toronto International Film Festival and the Busan International Film Festival. The movie got rave reviews from the critics:

Tartly funny and plungingly sad in equal measure, this is nuanced, humane queer filmmaking, more concerned with the textures and particulars of its own intimate story than with grander social statements — even if, as a tale of transgender desire in a Muslim country, its very premise makes it a boundary-breaker.
Guy Lodge, Variety
“Joyland” is, on one hand, a kind film. It paints even Haider’s quietest moments in bright, living colors. He and his wife Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq) — to whom he was betrothed before they met — have a playful, personable understanding of each other, and of his unconventional role as a homemaker while she works as makeup artist for Lahore’s economic upper crust. 
Siddhant Adlakha, IndieWire

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Topics:  Oscars   Sarwat Gilani   Joyland 

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