ISLAMABAD: Pakistani Saim Sadiq’s feature debut, “Joyland,” the first Pakistani film to be selected in Cannes, received a standing ovation after it premiered in the festival’s Un Certain Regard strand.
The film celebrates ‘transgenedr culture’ in Pakistan and tells the story of a family torn between modernity and tradition in contemporary Lahore.
Videos widely shared on social media showed the film getting a nearly 10-minute-long standing ovation.
“Standing ovation for ‘Joyland,’” actress and screenwriter Rose Harlean said.
Pakistani filmmaker Nabeel Qureshi congratulated Sadiq on the achievement.
“Such a moment of pride to see #Joyland receive a standing ovation at Cannes, and the immense praise its received,” actor Osman Khalid Butt posted.
A review in Variety described the film as the story of a patriarchal family that yearns for the birth of a baby boy to continue the family line, while their youngest son secretly joins an erotic dance theater and falls for an ambitious transsexual starlet.
Sadiq drew inspiration from his own family and a theater close to his home in Lahore.
“I came from a very morally upright, middle-class conservative family, and to find out that this other world exists, literally like a 10-minute drive from my house, that I never knew of. It’s so different, the world of the theater, where sexuality is not such a taboo, where women can get on stage and be in such positions of power,” the filmmaker told Variety.
“It’s the same people who are probably sitting at a family dinner in my house, who probably are later going in and watching those shows sometimes, and then pretending that they’re not the same person existing in both worlds. For me, it became an interesting way of examining myself, my family and the world around me with a particular focus on gender and intimacy,” Sadiq added.
Pakistan has one of the most progressive transgender cultures in the world. In 2018, Pakistan passed a landmark transgender rights bill that provides the country’s trans citizens with fundamental rights including prohibiting discrimination and harassment against them educationally and socially, allowing them to obtain driving licenses and passports and to change their gender in the national database at their own discretion.
“They were always very much part of the world that we lived in. They brought a certain sense of color and flamboyance and an owning up of desire in a certain way,” Sadiq said.
The filmmaker said that the progress of Pakistan’s transgender community had been so swift that he had to pause writing the script because some narratives about them weren’t accurate anymore.
“From the time they were struggling and they had all these superstitions around them to now when they are actresses, doctors and news anchors, it’s a big, big shift that I’ve been fortunate enough to see in my life,” Sadiq said.