Pakistan bans its official Oscar entry Joyland | Arts and Culture News

Islamabad, Pakistan – The Pakistani government has banned the film Joyland, which is the South Asian country’s official Oscar entry, for containing “very objectionable material”, with the controversy sparking debate on social media. about censorship.

The film, which depicts the love between a man and a transgender woman, has won numerous global awards at film festivals, including at Cannes earlier this year. It is scheduled to be released in Pakistan on November 18.

The film was approved by the country’s central and provincial censorship boards in August. Films must be approved by federal as well as provincial censorship boards before they can be shown in theaters.

But a complaint by a religious party leader forced the federal censorship board to reverse an earlier decision and declare the film ineligible to be shown on “the whole of Pakistan”.

“A written complaint has been received that the film contains objectionable content that is inconsistent with the social values ​​and moral standards of our society,” the statement released Friday said.

Senator of Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) Party Mushtaq Ahmad Khan praised the ban in a tweet, states that as an Islamic republic, Pakistan must adhere to Islamic values ​​and norms.

Pakistani film Joyland to premiere at Toronto film festival
(LR) Saim Sadiq, Rasti Farooq, Alina Khan, Ali Junejo, Sohail Sameer and Sania Saeed at the Joyland film premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) in Toronto, Canada on September 12. [Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

Hashtags on social networks

Controversy surrounding the film has spread across social media, with #ReleaseJoyland and #BanJoyland tending to support and oppose the critically acclaimed film.

A wave of support has flooded social media from everyone, including artists, for the film.

Author Fatima Bhutto tweeted the compliment for the film in one theme and said Joyland is a “beautiful, honest and smart film and it would be embarrassing the state in which people all over the world can watch it except those at home. “

“Censoring Joyland is pointless. Pakistan has a lot of artists, filmmakers, [and] writers with rich culture and, more importantly, bravery that the world admires. A smart state will celebrate and promote this, not silence and threaten it.”

Under pressure, Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif’s government on Monday set up an eight-member committee to “weigh the complaints” against the film. The committee has been asked to submit its report by Tuesday.

Film director Saim Sadiq told Al Jazeera that he was disappointed by the government’s decision.

“This is a very confusing situation. Before that the board issued the certificate and suddenly [it] has been recovered,” he told Al Jazeera.

“We are using every democratic, diplomatic and legal means available to us to try to resolve this issue and we hope that better sense prevails.”

global award

Joyland is set in the city of Lahore in the eastern Pakistani province of Punjab and tells the story of a young man who falls in love with a transgender woman. It debuted at the Cannes film festival earlier this year, where it received numerous awards, including the Jury Prize as well as the Queer Palm award.

Since then, the film has won critical acclaim globally at various film festivals and on Friday, the day the film was banned in Pakistan, Sadiq received the Young Film Award at the Screen Awards. Asia Pacific in Australia.

The film has been selected as the official Pakistani entry for the Academy Awards (Oscar) in September and the youngest Nobel laureate, Malala Yousafzai, has joined the Joyland team as producer. executive to promote the film for the upcoming awards season.

Sadiq says no movie can please everyone and those who don’t like it can choose not to watch it.

“If you have a problem with a movie, you can choose not to watch it. No movie can please everyone, and that’s why we don’t need permission from 220 million people to release a movie,” he said, referring to the South Asian nation’s population. .

Meanwhile, Senator Khan of the JI party admitted to Al Jazeera that he had not seen the film but that he had been told by “authentic sources” about the film’s content.

“I have been informed from authentic sources in the media that it [the film] received an award in the lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and gay (LGBTQ) category at Cannes,” the senator told Al Jazeera.

“This means, the film deals with a subject that has no place in an Islamic republic like Pakistan.”

He also objected to the main character’s Muslim name ‘Haidar’ due to its religious reverence in the country. The film, he said, celebrates a “male love affair”.

“This is part of a trend of cultural terrorism in Pakistan, questioning our institution of marriage and cultural norms. This movie is an act of war against them,” he said.

Pakistan has a history of banning films on various subjects, often citing religious and nationalist reasons for its decisions.

Writer and director Saim Sadiq at the Joyland premiere.
Film director Saim Sadiq told Al Jazeera he was disappointed by the government’s decision. [File: Carlos Osorio/Reuters]

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