Pakistan bans Joyland, film about trans love affair, putting its Oscar status in doubt

From left, Joyland director Saim Sadiq and actors Rasti Farooq, Alina Khan, Ali Junejo, Sohail Sameer and Sania Saeed at the film's Toronto International Film Festival premiere on Sept. 12. Pakistan's government has reversed a decision by the country's censor board that would have allowed the movie about a trans love affair to be shown in theatres. The move could jeopardize Joyland's chances at the Oscars. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters - image credit)
From left, Joyland director Saim Sadiq and actors Rasti Farooq, Alina Khan, Ali Junejo, Sohail Sameer and Sania Saeed at the film's Toronto International Film Festival premiere on Sept. 12. Pakistan's government has reversed a decision by the country's censor board that would have allowed the movie about a trans love affair to be shown in theatres. The move could jeopardize Joyland's chances at the Oscars. (Carlos Osorio/Reuters - image credit)

The government of Pakistan has overruled its own censor board and reversed a decision that allowed the film Joyland to be seen in the country's theatres, a move that could doom its Oscar chances.

When Joyland premiered at Cannes in May, it made history as the first official entry from Pakistan to be invited into the prestigious festival.

The film by director Saim Sadiq finds a man in an arranged marriage drawn into a relationship with a transgender dancer. Joyland traces the ripple affects of the affair on the man's life as he lives with generations of his family in a small apartment.

WATCH | See the trailer for Joyland: 

Although the film's subject matter is seen as a taboo topic by some Pakistanis, Joyland has become a hit at festivals, enjoying standing ovations and strong reviews at the Toronto International Film Festival (TIFF) and others on the circuit.

All films shown in Pakistan must be cleared by regional and national censor boards. In late September, Joyland was selected as Pakistan's official Oscar entry and cleared by the country's censor board to be shown in theatres at home.

Now the government has reversed that decision, effectively banning the film from theatres.

Last week, Pakistan's Ministry of Information and Broadcasting released a statement saying it had received complaints that the film "contains highly objectionable material which do not conform with the social values and moral standards of our society."

Khoosat Films/The Associated Press
Khoosat Films/The Associated Press

Director to challenge decision

Director Saim Sadiq described the reversal as "unconstitutional and illegal," and says he plans to challenge the decision.

The conditions of Oscar eligibility state the film must be shown in its home country for at least a week before Nov. 30. Although for the International Feature Film category, the Academy does allow some movies to qualify while being exhibited outside the country of origin.

Sarwat Gilani, one of the actors in the film shared a tweet saying it was "shameful that a Pakistani film made by 200 Pakistanis over 6 years that got standing ovations from Toronto to Cairo to Cannes is being hindered in its own country."

The Pakistani Film Producers Association says it is also negotiating with the censor board and hoping for a resolution.

Earlier this year at TIFF, Sadiq said Pakistanis had embraced the film's success and were encouraged to see their country in the news for positive reasons.

Joyland was originally set to be released in Pakistan on Nov. 18, to coincide with Transgender Awareness Week.