‘Joyland’ Director Saim Sadiq on Pushing Back Against Censorship in Pakistan – The Hollywood Reporter

When Pakistani filmmaker Saim Sadiq completed his debut feature, Joyland – It took him more than six years to develop, write, shoot and edit – his work on the project is basically done. He was, unfortunately, mistaken.

Joyland Tells the story of the Ranas, a large family living in the heart of bustling Lahore. As the family yearns for the birth of a male grandson, the soft-spoken younger son, who has a sweet but asexual relationship with his wife through an arranged marriage, secretly works as a background dancer in a sensual theater, where he falls. For Trans Starlet. As their romance blossoms, strains within the family emerge, illuminating how each may be yearning for their own sexual rebellion—outside the confines of traditional patriarchy.

Joyland The selection committee of the Pakistani Academy chose it as the country’s official submission, but the film’s reception in its home country has been tepid. On November 11, a week before its scheduled national release, the National Film Board, bowing to pressure from conservative groups, certified the film, saying it had “damaged the moral fabric of the nation”. Sadiq, his actors, producers and industry friends lent their support to the film.

On November 16, the committee started by the Prime Minister’s office of Pakistan had re-approved the film. However, Sadiq’s moment of celebration was short-lived. Nov. On the 17th, the Censorship Committee of Punjab – Pakistan’s largest province, home to 70 percent of the country’s cinemas and where Joyland Set – announced a ban on the film within its jurisdiction. Now, Sadiq and his allies believe that their only hope is that the film will become Pakistan’s first Oscar winner in his mid- or late 20s, so … he’s experiencing a kind of delayed aging throughout the film. In practice, none of these three will be able to achieve this completely, as it will cost at least one of them. That inescapable conflict was dramatically interesting to me, especially as a vehicle for discussing masculinity and patriarchy.

Are you already familiar with the trans experience in Pakistan?

In a very superficial way. The interesting thing about trans people in Pakistan is that they are very visible. In cities in the states and many other countries, some neighborhoods are gay or trans districts. But in Pakistan, we don’t have that. You see trans people in any neighborhood – on the street, in a mosque, in a shopping mall. They are very marginalized, so sometimes you even see them homeless and begging for money. But I’d say that natural curiosity about their lives was there from my childhood – when you’re in your car, wondering, “Who’s that guy on the other side of the window?” You wonder that. As I begin Joyland, I started talking to two or three trans women who were friends of friends. We have long conversations and I ask them to tell me their love stories. When I made my short film darlingI cast Aleena Khan as the lead and we became good friends — she’s almost like my sister — and she co-starred. Joyland. Whenever I had a question about authenticity, I called her. She is essential to give the film its foundation.

Can you talk about your intentions for the visual style of the film?

When people in the West think of Pakistan, they picture a grey, dusty place. But the reality is that Pakistan is a very colorful country – from trucks to linens to city lights. Color is everywhere. The film takes place between a family home and an erotic theatre. Obviously, the theater is a very colorful place, albeit in a more elegant way. But I didn’t want to go down the obvious path of the theater being this charming, colorful place and the family home being dull and dreary. Both should be colorful in their own way. There [are] Parts of the film can be a bit heavy handed or painful to watch, but the color and vibrancy elevates the film and communicates that it is essentially a romantic story full of life.

You fought hard and your film was released – but only in a small minority of cinemas in Pakistan. How do you feel now about the whole struggle and the state of free expression for filmmakers in your country?

The film released in its home country, but it is yet to release in its home province of Punjab, where it has a large audience. I don’t really have time to process it all. If I want to continue making films in Pakistan, I have to keep my activist side ready – and I didn’t really expect or want that. I feel very strongly about certain things, but I never want to speak publicly in any way except through my films. I want to be a calm person in life. But I have learned that there is no room for being a quiet person. If you prefer to be silent, others will speak louder and you will not get the most essential thing you need. If you stay quiet, you will be abused, threatened, and defeated. “Is my art worth it?” You have to ask yourself that.

The interview has been edited for length and clarity.

This story first appeared in the December stand-alone issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, Click here to subscribe.

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