The most prestigious awards for the global film industry have certain requirements for nominees, including a theatrical exhibition. Joyland was chosen as Pakistan’s nominee for the International Feature Film Award category for the 95th Academy Awards. For international films, the rule states that they must be released outside of the US and its territories for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theatre for paid admission.
Award strategists working on Joyland told Variety that they plan to give the film its required seven-day run in France by November 30, which is the qualifying release date cutoff for the Oscars’ international feature category. If the film was submitted in general categories, such as best picture, it would have to be required to have a seven-day release in the US. However, the film does not currently have distribution yet. Additionally, Pakistan cannot retroactively choose another film as its entrant.
Joyland was banned from a cinematic screening in Pakistan after the Ministry of Information & Broadcasting canceled its exhibition license which was issued months ago. The federal government has declared the movie “uncertified” 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”.
This action has resulted in a lot of backlash across the country — many celebrities have also spoken up, asking the authorities to release Joyland. The situation also evoked a strong reaction from the cast and crew of the project. They immediately took to social media to call for its release. Director Saim Sadiq issued a statement, saying, “We – as a team – are gutted by this development. I am compelled to say that this sudden U-turn of the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting is absolutely unconstitutional and illegal.” He said the ministry had gone against the Constitution by asking provincial censor boards to follow their decisions as the provinces have autonomy after the 18th Amendment to make their own decisions regarding censorship.
In response, PM Shehbaz Sharif has formed a special committee to evaluate complaints filed against Joyland. The committee will report its findings and recommended follow-up action on November 15.
Directed and co-written by Sadiq, the film tells the story of Haider (Ali Junejo), the youngest son of the Ranas family, who, while working as a background dancer, falls in love with Biba (Alina Khan), a transgender woman. It premiered at the Cannes Film Festival where it won the Queer Palm and the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize.