Pakistan bans its official Oscar entry Joyland

The film is prohibited for having "very offensive material," despite widespread praise for its portrayal of a transgender couple's relationship.

The Pakistani government has banned the Oscar submission film Joyland on the grounds that it contains "very unpleasant content," sparking online discussion over the ethics of censorship.

The film, which depicts the romance between a man and a transgender woman, has received acclaim at festivals across the world, most recently at Cannes. There was supposed to be a November 18th release date in Pakistan.

In August, the picture was given the all-clear from both the provincial and national censor boards. Before a film may be shown in theaters, it must be approved by both federal and provincial censor boards.

But after a religious party leader filed a complaint, the federal censor board changed its mind and banned the film throughout "all of Pakistan."

A written complaint was received stating the picture "contains very unacceptable content which does not correspond with the social norms and moral standards of our society," according to the Friday notification.

A senator from the Jamaat-e-Islami (JI) party, Mushtaq Ahmad Khan, tweeted his support for the ban, arguing that Pakistan, as an Islamic country, must uphold Islamic principles and standards.

Social media has become a battleground in the film's ongoing dispute, with the hashtags #ReleaseJoyland and #BanJoyland trending, respectively, for and against the much praised movie.

On social media, the film has received an avalanche of positive feedback from moviegoers and artists alike.

Author Fatima Bhutto praised Joyland on Twitter, writing that it is a "wonderful, honest, and clever film and it should humiliate the state that everyone all over the globe can watch it except those at home."

Joyland's censoring, in other words, makes no sense. In addition to its cultural wealth and, perhaps more crucially, its bravery, Pakistan is home to a thriving artistic community. A progressive nation-state would not stifle and threaten this kind of innovation, but rather celebrate and foster it.

The administration of Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif has formed a committee of eight people to "consider on concerns" about the film on Monday in response to public pressure. The report from the committee is due on Tuesday.

According to Al Jazeera's reporting, the film's director, Saim Sadiq, was shocked by the government's decision.

The current scenario is highly perplexing. He explained to Al Jazeera that the board had issued a certificate earlier, but has now revoked it.

To put it simply, "We are using every democratic, diplomatic, and legal tools at our disposal to try to straighten this out, and we trust that better sense will prevail."

The film Joyland follows a young man as he falls in love with a transgender lady in the city of Lahore in the eastern Pakistani state of Punjab. It premiered at this year's Cannes Film Festival, where it won both the Jury Prize and the Queer Palm.

Sadiq earned the Young Cinema Award at Australia's Asia Pacific Screen Awards on the same day that it was banned in Pakistan, proving its international acclaim.

Malala Yousafzai, the youngest-ever recipient of the Nobel Peace Prize, has joined the Joyland team as an executive producer to help promote the film ahead of the upcoming awards season.

Sadiq claims that there is no movie that can make everyone happy, and that those who don't like it may just choose not to see it.

"If you don't like a movie, you don't have to see it. Since no movie can ever suit everyone, he explained, "we don't need to obtain permission from 220 million individuals to distribute a film." This figure represents the whole population of the South Asian country.


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