Oscar contender ‘Joyland’ banned by Pakistani government for “highly objectionable material”

Director Saim Sadiq has called the move a “grave injustice”

Academy Award entry Joyland has been banned by the Pakistani government from a local premiere on the grounds of “highly objectionable material”. 

According to a report by Variety, the Pakistani Ministry of Information and Broadcasting issued an order on November 11 revoking the censor certificate previously approved for the film in August.

The order stated that the Ministry had been receiving complaints expressing that the film “[does] not conform with the social values and moral standards of [Pakistani] society” and is “repugnant to the norms of ‘decency and morality’ as laid down in Section 9 of the Motion Picture Ordinance, 1979”.

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The order proceeds to “[declare] the feature film titled Joyland as an uncertified film for the whole of Pakistan… with immediate effect”, following a “comprehensive inquiry”.

Following the ban, Joyland director Saim Sadiq released a lengthy statement via his Instagram account, calling the ban “a grave injustice”.

Sadiq highlighted that the film had already been viewed and approved by three relevant censor boards before adding that the Ministry’s ban is an “absolutely unconstitutional” overreach of power, given that the Pakistani constitution enables all provinces “the autonomy to make their own decisions”, and accused it of caving under the influence of “a few extremist factions”.

The filmmaker expressed gratitude for the public outcry against the Ministry’s move, and ended with a rallying call: “Hence, as artists and filmmakers and citizens we must not sit back and we must raise our voice collectively. I urge the Pakistan Ministry of Information and Broadcasting to please review this decision and return the right of our citizens to be able to watch the film that has made their country’s cinema proud world over.”

The post concludes with photographic evidence, presumably of the film’s prior approval by censors.

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Co-executive produced by Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, Joyland is the first feature film by Saim Sadiq, and follows Haider, the youngest son of a patriarchal family, who secretly joins an erotic dance theater and falls in love with a transgender actress there. Their love affair brings to light the dark secrets of Haider’s family.

Watch the film’s trailer below.

In May, the film premiered at Cannes Film Festival’s Un Certain Regard category, where it took home the jury prize. The film would proceed to win the Cannes Queer Palm, before touring other international film festivals including the Toronto International Film Festival, India’s Dharamshala International Film Festival and the Asia Pacific Screen Awards in Australia.

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