Pakistani Film 'Joyland' Makes History at The 75th Cannes Film Festival

The film is a moving take on gender and sexuality set in Lahore.

2 min read
Pakistani Film 'Joyland' Makes History at The 75th Cannes Film Festival

Joyland made history by being the first Pakistani film to be selected as an official entry at the world’s most prestigious Cannes film festival. Written and directed by debutant Saim Sadiq, this film is a moving take on gender and sexuality set in a busy Lahore household. It also became a clear crowd favourite and received a rapturous standing ovation.

Now it has made history again by winning not one but two awards. The Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section of the Festival de Cannes as well as Queer Palm. One of the central characters in the film is a transwoman played by a real-life transwoman Alina Khan.


Joyland follows the relationship between a married man and a transgender erotic dancer. Patriarchy works insidiously and as the film examines gender and social norms we marvel at how sensitively each character and the story unfolds.

It’s a busy household with a wheelchair-bound father in law, his two sons, daughters in law and their children - where any sort of transgression is forbidden and frowned upon.

Joyland with its perceptive writing provides a staggering critique of the kind of punishing system that doesn’t allow an individual to accept their truth.

Sarwat Gilani who plays one of the daughters in law Nuchi calls it a “dream come true”. “For a film like Joyland to represent Pakistan is a huge honour and it gives an entirely different perspective of Pakistani cinema to the world.” Although it’s Independent cinema and not commercial therefore not making a lot of money, investors are hesitant to come on board, but she hopes that will change after Joyland making a mark at Cannes.

She also went on to add, “Every project that comes out of Pakistan be it Churails or Qaatil Haseenaaon ke Naam or now this (Joyland) is showing the true representation of Pakistan. It differs from what we see on news channels and I am so glad we are stepping up our game and taking the responsibility of showcasing our narratives to the world on a global platform. “

While a huge win for Pakistan and the South Asian industry Joyland is also a strong contender for Camera d’Or. It is the annual Cannes Film Festival award bestowed on the best first feature film from all festival programmes (Official Selection, International Critics’ Week and Directors’ Fortnight).

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