- A bittersweet tale of repressed desire and the quest for individual freedom had its world premiere at Cannes earlier this year.
Pakistan has selected “Joyland” as its entry for the Oscars’ international feature film race. Written and directed by debutant Saim Sadiq, it is a bittersweet tale of repressed desire and the quest for individual freedom.
Adapted from his award-winning short “Darling,” the film had its world premiere at Cannes earlier this year, becoming the first-ever film from the subcontinent to receive an award in the Un Certain Regard. It also won the jury prize and the Queer Palm. The film also screened at the Zurich Film Festival in May, and had its North American premiere at the Toronto International Film Festival earlier this month.
The story follows a patriarchal family as they yearn for the birth of a baby boy to continue the family line, while their youngest son secretly joins an erotic dance theater and falls for a trans woman, according to the film’s synopsis. The film explores a whole family, presenting a picture of a clan torn between modernity and tradition in contemporary Lahore.
Haider Rana (Ali Junejo), a quiet, unemployed husband to a vociferous, employed wife, Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq), has a seemingly happy arranged marriage and ordered family life, living under the same roof as the rest of the Rana clan. Amidst pressure and ridicule from his father, Haider finds work as a backup dancer for the trans performer Biba (Alina Khan), opening his eyes to another way to love — and another way of life. Mumtaz, meanwhile, is frustrated with the expectations of a patriarchal society. Soon their desires collide, forcing them and their family to reckon with what has been buried for so long.
In it’s review, Deadline called “Joyland” “a thoughtful, well performed and engrossing drama set in a culture that’s shifting, and not always with ease.” IndieWire called it “a daring queer Pakistani drama about desire,” while according to The Hollywood Reporter, “Sadiq’s debut feature observes the tension within a Pakistani family suffocated by societal conventions.”
“Joyland” is produced by Apoorva Guru Charan, Sarmad Sultan Khoosat and Lauren Mann. Executive producers are Ramin Bahrani, William Olsson, Jen Goyne Blake, Tiffany Boyle, Elsa Ramo, Oleg Dubson, Kathrin Lohmann, Hari Charana Prasad, Sukanya Puvvula and Owais Ahmed.
Pakistan has submitted 10 entries to the Oscars in recent years with no nominations as of yet. Its last entry was in 2020 with Sarmad Khoosat’s “Circus Of Life.”