What a story had joyland in barely a year of existence! Presented in Un Certain Regard last May at Cannes, the very first Pakistani film in the history of the festival was able to mark its passage on the Croisette with a hot iron.
With a QueerPalm and a Jury Prize (Un Certain Regard), the film was already on the way. Subsequently, after being selected by his country for the Oscar race for Best Foreign Language Film, the film suffered a total ban on distribution in Pakistani cinemas. A measure that was later abandoned.
A particularly difficult moment for its director, who confided to Komitid don’t really have “had time to digest all that”.
Since then, although the film is still struggling to be released in cinemas in his country, his golden career has been able to resume with a vengeance, with the Grand Prix of the Chéries-Chéris 2022 festival and selection in the coveted Foreign Film Academy Awards shortlist. So it’s no exaggeration to say that apart from a few closed-minded religious conservatives, the film has everyone in agreement.
joyland is one of those choral films which, thanks to the multiple stories of different characters, manage to paint the portrait of a feeling that is common to them all, that of the oppression linked to patriarchy and its repercussions.
In Lahore, Haider has no job and lives with his strong-headed, work-loving wife Mumtaz; his father, an aging patriarch who enforces his law; his brother, symbol of the virility he will never have; and his sister-in-law, a housewife who takes care of the maintenance of the house and the children. In this large house, Saim Sadiq makes this microcosm the perfect reflection of society, where everyone suffers from the patriarchal and traditional regime, whether they are its victims or its vectors. This small world that turns on itself will be quickly turned upside down by the arrival of the flamboyant Biba, a trans dancer whom Haider will fall under the spell of and maneuver to join his troupe of dancers.
A proposal which, summed up in this way, may give rise to fear of a heavy and heavy heap, but that was without counting the masterful hand of the filmmaker, sure of his gesture, who avoids all Manichaeism and delivers a vision of Pakistan as we have not seen it. never seen, which he describes on Komitid as “a somewhat bipolar country, always in contradiction with itself”.
A double country with which Haider will have to learn to juggle to be able to get out of it at best. Thus, it is with a rare dignity that Saim Sadiq treats his characters, without any complacency or vulgar sentimentality. It is rare to witness this kind of first film in which a very young filmmaker navigates with such ease and relevance in risky waters.
Ultimately, joyland skilfully manages to avoid all the pitfalls into which films fall too easily today. The actors and actresses are all impeccable without being in search of performance. Saim Sadiq produces beauty without overly aestheticizing, the story is tragic without being serious, the film takes its time without being boring, it is political but never forgets to be above all pure cinema.
So, in many ways, joyland is a miracle of cinema. A film with a career strewn with pitfalls, which could never have existed, and which ends up conquering the hearts and inhabiting the minds of all those who let it in.
“Joyland”, by Saim Sadiq, in theaters on December 28
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“Joyland” or the heartbreaking cry of the victims of patriarchy