Pakistan bans its official Oscar entry Joyland over ‘highly objectionable material’

Pakistan has banned Saim Sadiq’s critically-acclaimed film Joyland, saying that it contains “highly objectionable material”.

Joyland is a fictional story set in Lahore about a middle-class family in which a wheelchair-bound yet severe patriarch rules over his two sons and daughters-in-law.

He wants his kids to give him grandchildren, but that all changes when his younger son Haider falls in love with Biba, an intersex dancer who he works for.

The film, which also happens to be Pakistan’s official entry for the 2023 Oscars, was granted a certificate allowing it to be screened by the Pakistani authorities in August this year.

However, objections to the film’s content have since been raised.

“Written complaints were received that the film contains highly objectionable material which do not conform with the social values and moral standards of our society and is clearly repugnant to the norms of ‘decency and morality’ as laid down in Section 9 of the Motion Picture Ordinance, 1979,” Pakistan’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting said in a statement on 11 November.

The withdrawal of its licence means the film can no longer be screened in Pakistan.

Many people have criticised the ban on social media.

“Shameful that a Pakistani film made by 200 Pakistanis over six years that got standing ovations from Toronto to Cairo to Cannes is being hindered in its own country,” actor Sarwat Gilani wrote. “Don’t take away this moment of pride and joy from our people!

“No one’s forcing anyone to watch it!” she added. “So don’t force anyone to not watch it either! Pakistani viewers are smart enough to know what they want to watch or not. Let Pakistanis decide! Don’t insult their intelligence and our hard work!”

Sociologist Nida Kirmani said: “Just found out that Joyland isn’t being released in Pakistan, a film that has been winning high praise from international audiences. Our decision makers are still treating Pakistani audiences like children, depriving us of art & culture under the guise of morality.”

Filmmaker Javaria Waseem wrote: “Two years ago, when I left Pakistan, Zindagi Tamasha was banned under similar labels of ‘indecency and immorality’.

“Two years later, Joyland is being censored with the same tactics. It’s heartbreaking to see that things haven’t changed a bit, probably just gotten worse.”

Earlier this year Joyland became the first Pakistani film to be screened at the Cannes Film Festival, where it won the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize and Queer Palm award.