Analysis: Joyland

Ali Junejo and Alina Khan in Joyland

Joyland (Urdu: جوائے لینڈ) is a 2022 Urdu and Punjabi-language Pakistani drama film written, directed and co-edited by Saim Sadiq in his feature directorial debut. The film stars Ali Junejo, Rasti FarooqAlina KhanSarwat Gilani, and Salmaan Peerzada.

This film about how characters in the story are trapped patriarchal system in Pakistan with no way out. Set in inner-city LahoreJoyland centers around a middle-class Rana family, headed by an elder patriarch (Peerzada) who yearns for the birth of a grandson.

Haider (Junejo) is a gay man trapped in an arranged marriage. He is not about to express his sexuality and finds solace in playing a house husband, helping with cooking, household chores and taking care of the children in house until he gets a job with Biba (Khan), transgender (hijra/chusra) dancer. His wife Mumtaz (Farooq) who is a non-binary career person prefers to work outside the house is forced to quit her job after Haider, gets a job with Biba.

The strongest character in this story is Biba, who knows what she wants. She want to have sex change and become a woman. Haider tells her that she is fine as she is because he has fallen in love with her as someone who is both female and male. But Biba lashes out at him and breaks up with him.

Transgender identity is recognized in the Quran, however homosexuality is not. Sex reassignment surgery is allowed in countries like Pakistan and Iran. However, there is little social support for those who go through the surgery. Queer Muslim scholar argue that all Queers are an extension of transgender identity because they transcend gender identity because of their same sex desire.

Joyland had its world premiere at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival on 23 May 2022, becoming the first Pakistani film to premiere at the Cannes Film Festival. It screened in the Un Certain Regard section, where it competed for the Caméra d’Or. The film received a standing ovation after its screening] and won the festival’s Jury Prize, as well as the Queer Palm prize for best LGBTQ-themed film.

After initially being banned for theatrical release in Pakistan, Joyland was approved for release with minor cuts, premiering domestically on 18 November 2022, and receiving generally positive reviews from critics. It was selected as the Pakistani entry for Best International Feature Film at 95th Academy Awards. On 21 December 2022, it became the first Pakistani film to be shortlisted in the category

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