Pakistani movie Joyland is making waves across the world. It won the Jury’s Prize and ‘Queer Palm’ at the Cannes Film Festival. It was also the official Pakistan entry for best international film at the Oscars. We were invited to a preview screening and Q&A with director Saim Sadiq at Watershed in Bristol.
Joyland is a groundbreaking movie. The story of a married man falling in love with a trans exotic dancer has proved controversial in Pakistan where it was initially banned.
In a fascinating interview with Harriet Taylor from Bristol Trans and Non-Binary Creatives after the screening, director Saim Sadiq discussed his battle and determination to get the film shown in his country with court challenges and filming alternatives to the sexual scenes to convince the censors.
Tackling modern perceptions of gender identity
Joyland tackles how Pakistani’s traditional patriachical society clashes with modern perceptions of gender identity.
Rana Amanullah (Salmaan Peerzada) is an elderly father and grandfather who rules over his family and pushes his views on how he thinks his children and grandchildren should behave. He isn’t getting his own way though with his daughter-in-law Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq) going to work as a make-up artist, while his son Haider (Ali Junejo) stays at home to look after the children.
Rana makes his feelings known and they eventually give in to his demands. Haider gets a job meaning that Mumtaz has to give up hers which makes her very unhappy.
Haider’s job is at a exotic dancing theatre and it is there he meets Biba (Alina Khan), a trans dancer who changes his life. He falls in love and they have an affair.
His obsession with Biba means he neglects his wife which has devastating consequences.
Joyland is a beautiful and heartbreaking movie. Saim Sadiq’s storytelling is brilliant, made even more impressive by the fact that this is his first feature film.
The cast is fantastic too. Alina Khan, who Saim Sadiq first worked with on his short film Darling, stands out as Biba.
Ali Junejo is fabulous too as the young husband battling with his feelings about who he is, and Rasti Farooq is brilliant as Mumtaz.
Joyland is by no means a dark movie. It is colourful and bright in places with plenty of humour. A particularly funny scene is Haider travelling home on his scooter with a giant cardboard cut-out of Biba.
Joyland deserves all the praise it is getting. We highly recommend it.