Is Joyland facing curbs for humanising transpersons?

In the month of May this year, Joyland directed by Saim Sadiq made history when it became the first Pakistani feature film to win a feminist-themed award at the prestigious the Cannes Film Festival. Since the project hadn't been shown in Pakistan, it generated a great deal of curiosity among cinephiles about its subject matter.

Once the film garnered international recognition, it was almost certain that Pakistan's Oscars Selection Committee would pick it as the formal entry for Oscars 2023, which it did. The next step was its release in Pakistani cinemas. Two months later, on Aug 17, the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) issued it the necessary censor certificate, and from Nov 18 the film was (supposed) to be screened in Pakistani cinemas.

But on Nov 11 (Friday), the Ministry of Information and Broadcasting, through a notification, cancelled its license. Reason? Point two of the notification reads: 'Written complaints were received 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 situation has evoked a strong reaction from the cast and crew of the project. They immediately took to social media with a note. Its director 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 its decision as the provinces had got autonomy after the 18th Amendment.

Sarwat Gilani, who plays an important role in the film, pointed out in her tweet: 'They're doing it again! There are smear campaigns to ban Joyland. We need your support to make sure we don't let these violent, insensitive, extremists win again'.

'Shameful that a Pakistani film made by 200 Pakistanis over six years that got standing ovations from Toronto to Cairo to Cannes is being hindered in its own country. Don't take away this moment of pride and joy from our people,' she added.

Talking to Dawn, Sana Jafri, the co-producer and casting director of the film, said they had got clearance from the censor boards of the federal capital, Punjab and Sindh where the film was to be screened.

'All the censor boards had made different...

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