Censored in its country, the Pakistani film JOYLAND tells the story of patriarchy and sorority

VSscreened in Pakistan, acclaimed at Cannes and in the running for the 2023 Oscars, director Saim Sadiq’s first feature film, which depicts a love story between a transgender artist and a son of a traditional family, is one of the films end of year event.

By Axel Cadieux

JOYLAND, the first Pakistani film presented in the official selection at the Cannes Film Festival, takes the form of a modern tale on the toxicity of patriarchy: since the very introverted Haider finally finds a job, his wife Mumtaz is forced by the latter’s family. stop working to take care of the household. The trajectory of the work then seems all mapped out: a “just and necessary” societal narrative, obviously paved with good intentions but could not be more marked and expected. Where Saim Sadiq – born in 1991, first feature film – finds all his singularity and frees himself from the shackles, it is in the writing and the characterization of his two main characters. If Haider is hired, it’s as a dancer in a colorful little troupe led by a woman.
transgender, with whom he soon falls in love; in response, rather than indulge in introspective torment, his wife Mumtaz transmutes despair into energy and befriends her sister-in-law.

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The sorority then becomes the epicenter of JOYLAND, and probably its most beautiful idea, as during this almost abstract scene during which the two women spend an evening in a funfair out of time, which moreover gives its name to the film. . This small bubble made of flashes and fluorescent streaks also indicates the tone of these 126 minutes, far from what one would expect from a first feature with a social aim: Saim Sadiq does in color and the experimental, sometimes close to a Gaspar Noé under acid (admittedly a pleonasm), wavering with motifs that would not go out of place in a trance-goa festival. As such, the few dance scenes of the “erotic cabaret”, during which Haider reveals himself, oscillate between kitsch and
ecstasy and find their balance in this in-between worthy of SHOWGIRLS or MAGIC MIKE. This is another major strength of JOYLAND: despite its subject, the film takes itself very little seriously, alternating between Jacques Tati-style burlesque and static shots from which the absurdity and deadly rigidity of conventions arise – let’s be crazy, let’s quote Ozu.

“A chicken falls in love with a mosquito and ends up kissing it. So the chicken dies of dengue and the mosquito of bird flu. Why ? Because love always leads to death. » It would be tempting to sum up the film to this fountain-like fable with a touch of Shakespeare, told by a coming-out Haider; tempting but simplistic, as JOYLAND wants to be free, freed and relieved of all academicism. So many qualities that earned Saim Sadiq’s film to leave Cannes 2022 with the very emblematic… Queer Palm.

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Censored in its country, the Pakistani film JOYLAND tells the story of patriarchy and sorority