Director Saim Sadiq’s Joyland was highly praised when it premiered at the Cannes Film Festival (the first Pakistani film to ever be selected), but it caused quite a bit of stir and discussion in Pakistan. The tender queer love story between a married man named Haider (Ali Junejo) and a transgender woman named Biba (Alina Khan) won the audience’s heart, receiving both the Un Certain Regard jury prize and the Queer Palm award. However, it wasn’t met with the same enthusiasm in its home country, where it was initially banned and, later, censored.

By narrating Haider and Biba’s love story, Joyland explores the stigma around their relationship and the difficulties it brings to both characters. Biba is fighting a daily battle to be seen for who she is; she’s trying to have her very own existence and identity recognised, while facing judgement, harassment and violence in the process. Haider, on the other hand, is a married, childless and unemployed man, who was raised in a conservative patriarchal family and is still discovering his sexuality. The conflict between tradition and the freedom to be oneself is a central theme in the film, but it unexpectedly takes more than just one form as many other characters are given space in the story. Haider’s wife Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq), for instance, is also struggling to fit into the traditional role society carved for her. Much like Haider and Biba, she is also being forced into a life she doesn’t want, having to leave her job to be a housewife and a mother.

Sadiq’s feature-length debut is therefore more than just the story of two people, offering a broader overview on Pakistan’s relationship with themes such as transphobia, sexuality and traditional gender roles. While the main love story develops slowly and tenderly, the film does an excellent job at representing multiple other narratives in the background, allowing the viewer to get a better understanding of every character. The apparent inescapability of the characters’ condition is also enhanced by the use of a 4:3 aspect ratio throughout the film, which adds to the overall sense of confinement and claustrophobia.

Joyland is ultimately a tale about freedom and self-determination, about deciding your own destiny and not letting traditions and society’s judgement dictate who you should be. In one way or another, the characters all try to escape their condition, and although sometimes their actions lead to dramatic consequences, the film somehow still feels incredibly hopeful in the end.

Written by Chiara Franchin.


Geef een reactie

Vul je gegevens in of klik op een icoon om in te loggen. logo

Je reageert onder je account. Log uit /  Bijwerken )

Facebook foto

Je reageert onder je Facebook account. Log uit /  Bijwerken )

Verbinden met %s