Pakistan to review ban on LGBT film sent for the Oscars

ISLAMABAD, 16 Nov 2022:

Authorities in Pakistan yesterday said they are reviewing a ban on the screening of Joyland – the country’s official entry for the Oscars – which has faced backlash from the orthodox sections of the country for allegedly having “highly objectionable material.”

The film, which shows a married man falling in love with a transgender woman, was scheduled to be screened on theatres across Pakistan on Nov 18.

Prime minister Shehbaz Sharif had constituted a committee to review the ban after criticism on social media against the ban, calling to reverse the decision.

“Today the committee is submitting its report to the prime minister after its review on which a decision will be taken later,” said head of prime minister’s strategic reforms, Salman Sufi.

Joyland has won international acclaim, including awards such as the Queer Palm, the LGBTQ prize at the Cannes Film Festival.

However, the film was subject to sharp criticism and condemnation at home, especially from the religious and conservative sections, with several religious leaders demanding a ban on its release in Pakistan.

The government-led Central Board of Film Censors and provincial boards had issued Joyland a clearance certificate for release in August, a mandatory process for a film to be screened in theatres.

However, the permission for release was reversed last week following criticism.

In a notification issued Friday, the information ministry said the federal government had declared the film “repugnant to the norms of decency and morality,” and revoked its certification.

But the decision to ban the film was equally criticised by majority of the people on social media.

Sufi announced on Twitter on Monday that the prime minister had formed a “high-level” committee to “assess the complaints as well as merits to decide on its (Joyland‘s) release in Pakistan.

“The committee shall consider the complaints against the said film being against the social and moral norms and recommend follow up action,” a notification issued by the government said Monday.

The film, which also portrays the struggles of transgender people in the country, was to be Pakistan’s first official entry for the Oscars.

However, to be eligible for the Oscars 2023, the film needs to be released in the country a week before Nov 30 this year.