Pakistani film ‘Joyland’ makes history at Cannes Film Festival

Saim Sadiq’s Joyland, Pakistan’s first film to be considered for the Cannes Film Festival tackles age-old taboos while making history with a stellar cast including senior actor Sania Saeed, and others. 

Al Jazeera has termed Joyland to be a “taboo-tackling” film for its premise of an unusual love story between a trans-woman and married man. Director Saim Sadiq, expressed his happiness stating that he “just kept sobbing” at the debut where the film received a lengthy standing ovation. According to Sadiq, while he was not sure how long the standing ovation lasted, “I know that I had enough time to hug my whole team of 40 people twice”. 

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It is pertinent to note that Joyland which tackles the themes of gender identity and sexuality, was reportedly nominated for two awards. Talking about the film, Pakistani Oscar-winner Sharmeen Obaid Chinoy said that back in 2012, her film managed to unite the nation and that few films have succeeded in such a feat. Chinoy added that she hopes Joyland which is “a sheer joy for Pakistan” will continue the tradition. 

Likewise, Pakistani actor Sarwat Gilani expressed that experiencing the debut at Cannes “was magical”. Gilani added that the standing ovation the film received on Tuesday, was not just a measure of appreciation but also of acknowledgment for the struggles faced by artists in Pakistan. Speaking to international media she said, “In our wildest dreams we could not have thought [we would be] here and represent Pakistan with a debut film”.

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According to Baaghi TV reports, the film won the Jury award in the category “Un Certain Regard”, literally meaning “a certain glance”. The category aims to celebrate young and upcoming directors focusing on marginal themes. Earlier, Saim Sadiq’s film Darling was also screened at Cannes in 2019. The story of which was based on the problems faced by the transgender community. At the time, the short film had garnered much attention and won the hearts of the public. 

Meanwhile, Joyland has also contended for “Caméra d’Or” meaning “Golden Camera” awarded to first-time directors. It is pertinent to note that the Cannes feature film category has a limited number of fourteen films, thereby it is a moment of great joy that the Pakistani film Joyland has managed to snag the jury award.

The film includes a stellar cast namely Sarwat Gilani, Salman Pirzada, Sania Saeed, Ali Junejo, Alina Khan, and Rusti Farooq, and has been produced by Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, Apoorva Guru, and Lauren Mann. 

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Expressing his happiness at the occasion, Pakistani director-producer Khoosat wrote on social media, “I can’t believe it”. Khoosat added that he is very happy about the historical success. 

Additionally, speaking about the challenges in funding, producer Apoorva Charan told Al Jazeera, “I think the challenges were: first-time feature director, first-time feature producer, non-English language film with a Pakistan focus”.

According to Baaghi TV reports, the film is set for theatrical release in France but so far there are no concrete plans for its release in Pakistan. In the past, films with controversial and/or taboo themes have been banned for public view despite garnering a name in international media. However, Sadiq is hopeful that the reception at Cannes may be the start of something new. 

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