‘Joyland’s success is Pakistan’s success’: Celebrities rally behind filmmaker Saim Sadiq for Joyland’s release
Internationally recognised film Joyland is facing a major roadblock in its journey to release in its home country as the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting has revoked the censor certificate granted to the filmmaker months ago. Ever since a copy of the notification made it to social media, celebrities have been up in arms, calling for an end to the ban and for the film to be released.
Senator Mushtaq Ahmed Khan of the JI shared on Saturday a copy of the notice dated November 11 that read that the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) Islamabad granted the censor certificate on August 17 this year. However, after receiving complaints 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,” the federal government has declared Joyland “uncertified”.
A few hours after Joyland’s actor Sarwat Gilani and musician Abdullah Siddiqui were joined by other celebrities to decry the decision, director Saim Sadiq shared his statement on Instagram, “We — as a team — are gutted by this development but fully intend to raise our voice against this grave injustice. I am compelled to point out that this sudden U-turn by the Pakistan Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is absolutely unconstitutional and illegal.”
He also shared that Joyland got certified by all three censor boards earlier in August. “The 18th amendment in the Pakistani Constitution gives all provinces the autonomy to make their own decision, yet the Ministry suddenly caved under pressure from a few extremist factions — who have not seen the film — and made a mockery of our federal censor board by rendering their decision irrelevant,” Sadiq wrote.
He added that in addition to their censor certificate being revoked, the ministry has also gone “against the Constitution by ordering all the other provincial censor boards, Sindh and Punjab, to follow its decision,” and that Joyland is still certified to release in Punjab and Sindh on its original release date, November 18.
“I am thankful for all the messages on mainstream and social media in support of the film and against this decision to hinder the film’s release in its home country, which show that Pakistani audiences are sensible and don’t want to be dictated about which film they should or should not watch,” Sadiq wrote with the hashtag #ReleaseJoyland and urged the ministry to review its decision. He also attached copies of all three certificates that were granted for the film’s release.
Actor Sania Saeed, who also stars in Joyland, told Taimur Rahman, a political activist and musician, “If it [Joyland] doesn’t release in Pakistan, there are going to be some difficulties for the Oscars submission. But what’s even more upsetting is that the entire world appreciated a Pakistani film, our film, story and people and Pakistan won’t be able to see the film, that’s sad.”
She reasoned that the film is for adults, therefore, they must be trusted with what kind of content they want and don’t want to watch. “I believe we should leave this decision up to the people. For the film to go up in cinemas, we need your support. The more people tweet in favour, the possibility for its release increases even more. I request all friends, who believe in freedom of what they should and should not watch, to raise voice for the release of Joyland via Twitter, Instagram and Facebook,” she said.
Actor Zhalay Sarhadi re-shared Sadiq’s post and wrote, “Why!!! we need to have this played in our cinemas!” with the hashtag Sadiq encouraged everyone to use for Joyland.
Jemima Goldsmith took to her Instagram stories and re-shared Sadiq’s post as well.
Sadqay Tumhare actor Adnan Malik took to Twitter and wrote that a film that features “a love story about a trans person” in a country that recognises and gives rights to trans people, makes no sense. “There’s so much fear, confusion and hypocrisy in a decision like this,” he wrote.
Malik called the state’s “parenting machine” a complete failure and said that’s the reason why our country is “in such a dismal place”.
“Power-hungry, money-driven, shadowed masculine warriors of morality, who probably have suppressed desires and broken relationships at home, inflicting their fears onto us. Always morality policing rather than focusing on the real issue at hand”, he said.
He questioned what people are afraid of when cinema is meant to create dialogue and conversation. Backing Gilani’s point that no one is forcing anyone to watch it, Malik wrote that Joyland is probably the most critically acclaimed Pakistani film of all time and it deserves a celebration. “Let’s own our culture rather than living in fear, in our own bodies and selves. Please share and support independent voices for the sake of our future,” said the Cake actor.
TV and radio host Anoushey Ashraf also took to Instagram and wrote, “With Netflix in every household and porn watched most by Pakistanis, the decision to curb your own artists growth, popularity and hard work is downright dumb and shameful. Films tell stories beyond our imagination, they transport us into worlds unknown. And here we are banning movies while we morally digress every bloody day.” She called it shameful and extended support to Gilani.
Lawyer and activist Jibran Nasir tweeted that not acknowledging diverse stories reflects our “fear to acknowledge our own reality that we are a diverse society” where different beliefs, cultures, experiences and struggles exist.
Actor Nadia Jamil tweeted that we have a habit of not appreciating “our national treasures” and said it is time to stand up for Joyland.
“Time to own what’s ours and protect it from extremist attitudes. I grew up in Zia’s era of Martial Law, with censorship and clamps on creativity. The progressive writers movement, classical dance, music and creativity was all banned. Our culture was suffocated, muted, disrespected. Our right to be creative stolen from us. This time we must protect that right,” she wrote.
The Damsa actor shared steps on how people can help the film release —use hashtag #ReleaseJoyland on Twitter every time you tweet about the film, tag the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting and Information Minister Marriyum Aurangzeb and call the ministry and demand that they stand up and to “pressure from people looking to malign the film.”
“Please be part of the solution. Please allow our people the right to enjoy our own art! Please know, silence gives strength to the problem. We are protecting our freedom. Our freedom to make art, and watch art. Our freedom to think for ourselves whether we like a film or not!” requested Jamil.
Actors Sajal Aly and Hira Mani also rallied behind Sadiq and extended their support to release Joyland.
Actor Ali Rehman Khan tweeted that Joyland’s success is Pakistan’s success and the amount of “acclaim it has garnered from reputable festivals around the world, while receiving standing ovations everywhere it has screened, is a matter of pride for us.”
Joyland has been written and directed by Sadiq and produced by Apoorva Guru Charan, Sarmad Sultan Khoosat and Lauren Mann.
The film’s ensemble cast includes debutantes Ali Junejo, Alina Khan, and Rasti Farooq alongside some of Pakistan’s beloved and respected actors like Gilani, Saeed, Sohail Sameer and Salmaan Peerzada.