Oscars: Pakistan Reverses Ban on Trans Love Story ‘Joyland’

Oscars: Pakistan Reverses Ban on Trans Love Story ‘Joyland’

Pakistan has reversed course and lifted a ban on its Oscars entry Joyland, but the film will receive some cuts by local censors, an aide to the country’s prime minister has revealed on Twitter.

Joyland is Pakistan’s official submission to the Oscars in the best international feature category and it won a top honor at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. The movie was approved for wide release in Pakistan. However, just one week before its scheduled opening, the Pakistani Ministry of Information and Broadcasting rescinded its decision and banned it.

Saim Sadiq directed and wrote the film. It tells the story of a love story between a married couple and a transgender girl. This caused controversy among conservatives in the country’s majority Muslim Muslim nation. After a concerted social media campaign, the ban was issued. It was claimed that the movie violated Islamic and Pakistani social values.

Salman Sufi was an aide to Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif and was vocal in his opposition. He took to Twitter to celebrate the reversed ban. “The Censor board review panel formed under the direction of [Prime minister Sharif] has cleared #Joyland for release.” he wrote. “Freedom to speak is a fundamental right and should be protected within the ambits of .”

In a follow-up interview, Sufi described Joyland’s cuts as “minor”, but declined to specify which scenes would be changed. He said that the film could be released Friday, as opposed to its original opening day.

Despite the fact that transgender people still face persecution and social stigma in Pakistan, some progress has been made with the introduction a new law to protect their rights and a Supreme Court ruling declaring them a “third gender .”


Sufi stated to the AP that transgender people are citizens of Pakistan just like any other. “We have established a hotline from the prime minister’s Office for their issues and the prime Minister is fully committed to protecting their rights .”

The ban briefly threatened Joyland‘s Oscar chances, as all international feature contenders must have a minimum seven-day theatrical run in their country of origin or a similar run outside their home nation, to qualify for the Academy Awards. Condor Films, a French distributor, responded to the ban by stating that the film would be given a one-week qualifying release at French cinemas beginning Nov. 18,, ahead of its planned, longer release in France in Dec.

In her Cannes review, The Hollywood Reporter‘s critic Lovia Gyarkye praised the film as “an aching consideration of gender and sexuality.”

Joyland premiered in Cannes, where it won the Jury Prize in Un Certain Regard. Film Constellation handles international sales, while North American rights are handled by WME Independent.

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