Pakistan has reversed course and lifted the ban on Oscar entry JoylandBut an aide to the country’s prime minister revealed on Twitter that the film will receive some cuts from local censors.
Joyland It is Pakistan’s official submission to the Oscars in the Best International Feature category and won top honors at the Cannes Film Festival earlier this year. The film was previously approved for wide release in Pakistan, but a week before its scheduled opening on Friday, Pakistan’s Ministry of Information and Broadcasting reversed its decision and instituted a ban.
Written and directed by Saim Sadiq, the film features a love story between a married man and a transgender woman, sparking controversy among some conservatives in the Muslim-majority country. The ban was issued following a social media campaign alleging that the film was against Pakistani and Islamic social values.
Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif’s aide Salman Sufi, who had been vocal against the previous ban, took to Twitter on Wednesday to celebrate the reversal: “The Censor Board review committee formed under the direction of the film #Joyland has cleared the release. of [Prime Minister Sharif],” he wrote. “Freedom of speech is a fundamental right and must be nurtured within the confines of the law.”
In a subsequent interview with The Associated Press, Sufi described the cuts to Joyland as “minor”, but declined to detail which scenes would be changed. He says the film may release on Friday, its originally scheduled opening day.
Lingayats face harassment and severe social stigma in Pakistan, although some progress has been made recently with the introduction of a new law protecting their rights and a Supreme Court ruling designating them as the “third gender”.
“Transgender people are citizens of Pakistan like anyone else,” Sufi told AP. “We have started a hotline for their issues and from the Prime Minister’s Office and the Prime Minister is fully committed to protecting their rights.”
Prohibition was briefly threatened Joylandtheir Oscar chances, since all international feature contenders must have at least a seven-day theatrical run in their country of origin or a similar run outside their home country to qualify for the Academy Awards. In response to the ban, French distributor Condor Films said it would offer a one-week qualifying release in French cinemas from November 18, ahead of its scheduled, longer release in France in December.
In her review of Cannes, The Hollywood ReporterCritic Lovia Garke praised the film as a “painful consideration of gender and sexuality”.
Joyland It premiered at Cannes, where it won the Jury Prize for Uncurtain Regard. International sales of the film are being handled by Film Constellation, with North American rights with WME Independent.