Review of ‘Joyland’: The love story of Saim Sadiq, Pakistan’s first feature film to screen at Cannes

Editor’s note: This review was originally published on May 23 after its world premiere on the cannes film festival. The film opens in New York on Friday and in Los Angeles on April 21.

A married man falls in love with a trans woman in joylandthe first Pakistani feature film to be presented at Cannes. Saim Sadiqit’s atmospheric a certain look The drama also explores an entire family, presenting the image of a clan torn between modernity and tradition in contemporary Lahore.

Haider (Ali Junejo) has a seemingly happy arranged marriage with Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq). But when he lands a job as a backup dancer for glamorous trans artist Biba (Alina Khan), his eyes are opened to another way of life, and potentially another way of loving. Meanwhile, his wife is frustrated with the expectations of the patriarchal society in which he lives, much less excited about the prospect of bringing another child into the family (her sister-in-law has daughters, much to everyone’s disappointment).

He joyland of the title is an amusement park that provides an escape for many of the group, whether it’s dancing with a troupe or screaming their grief on a fairground ride.

Haider makes a quietly compelling protagonist: a man oppressed by his father’s conventional expectations and more sensitive than he cares to admit. His wife is a tragic figure: an intelligent woman who deserves more than her luck. But the most distinctive character is Biba, the pre-op trans woman who performs exotic dancing for a living, sometimes in front of a large, relatively mainstream audience, other times for a small group of lewd and sexually aggressive men.

The relationship between Haider and Biba is fascinating – we’re never quite sure how far it will go or what drives Haider. There is a suggestion that he may be attracted to men, which angers Biba, who identifies as a woman. And yet, there’s a tangible tenderness between these two lost souls, both living lives they haven’t signed up for. The fact that Biba has taken the courageous step of changing her gender implicitly encourages Haider to live more honestly in accordance with her own sexuality. But this can come at a cost.

joyland it has a vivid sense of place, created not so much by its geographical context as by its characters. There is an attention to detail in the rituals of daily life, whether they are family celebrations or dance group rehearsals. Mostly emotionally restrained, this has an unexpected impact towards the end of the film, where she shifts focus to a deserving subject matter and drops another key character.

Presumably, that’s meant to reflect the protagonist’s perspective, though it leaves some stories up in the air. But joyland It remains a thoughtful, well-acted and fascinating drama set in a culture that is changing, and not always easily.

Qualification: joyland
Study: oscilloscope labs
Release date: April 7, 2023 (New York)/April 21 (LA) (Cannes premiere May 23, 2022)
Director-scriptwriter: Saim Sadiq
Cast: Ali Junejo Rasti Farooq, Alina Khan, Sarwat Gilani, Sohail Sameer, Salmaan Peerzada, Sania Saeed
Execution time: 2h7min

Add Comment