Updated 28 May, 2022

Joyland, a Pakistani movie featuring a daring portrait of a transgender dancer in the country, on Friday won the Cannes Queer Palm prize for best LGBT, “queer” or feminist-themed movie, the jury head told AFP. The film also won the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard segment.

Joyland by director Saim Sadiq, a tale of sexual revolution, tells the story of the youngest son in a patriarchal family who is expected to produce a baby boy with his wife but joins an erotic dance theatre and falls for the troupe’s director, a trans woman.

It is the first-ever Pakistani competitive entry at the Cannes festival where it is part of the Un Certain Regard segment that focuses on young, innovative cinema talent. Un Certain Regard is a competition focused on art-house films that runs parallel to the main competition, the Palme d'Or, which will be announced on Saturday.

“It’s a very powerful film, that represents everything that we stand for,” jury head, French director Catherine Corsini said.

Joyland will echo across the world,” Corsini said. “It has strong characters who are both complex and real. Nothing is distorted. We were blown away by this film.”

Joyland beat off several other strong entries, including Close by Belgian director Lukas Dhont and Tchaikovsky’s Wife by Kirill Serebrennikov, both hot contenders for the Cannes Festival’s top award Palme d’Or which will be announced on Saturday.

Joyland left Cannes audiences slack-jawed and admiring and got a standing ovation from the opening night’s crowd.

The film stars Sarwat Gilani, Sania Saeed, Ali Junejo, Alina Khan and Rasti Farooq.“It felt like the hard work that people do, the struggles that we face as artists in Pakistan, they’ve all come to be worth it,” Gilani told Reuters on Tuesday after the standing ovation.

“It’s not just about a love story anymore. It’s about real-time issues, real life issues that we all go through,” she said. “Having a woman, a trans, represent that sector of the society, I think it’s a really good step in the direction where we can say we can write progressive stories.”