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Pak reverses ban on Oscar contender ‘Joyland’; to be screened with ‘minor cuts’

‘Joyland’ is set to have a joy ride in Pakistan. The Shehbaz Sharif government has reversed its ban on Saim Sadiq’s Cannes-winning Oscar contender, reports ‘Variety’, quoting a senior adviser. Salman Sufi, head of Prime Minister Sharif’s Strategic Reforms unit, who has been a vocal opponent of the ban revealed the news on Twitter. He said the film will now be allowed to be released, albeit with some minor cuts.

“The decision is a simple yet powerful message that the government stands by freedom of speech and safeguards it, and cannot allow mere smear campaigns or disinformation to be used as choking creative freedom,” Sufi said, according to ‘Variety’.

According to Variety, on November 13, after ‘Joyland’ was banned, Sufi tweeted: “I personally do not believe in banning films that highlight issues faced by marginalized segments of our society. People should be trusted to watch & make their own mind. I will request my friend @Marriyum_A (Marriyum Aurangzeb, Pakistan’s Minister for Information and Broadcasting) to see if it’s possible to review the ban & meet the team #Joyland.”

On November 14, Sufi revealed that Sharif had constituted a high-level committee to assess the film and review its ban. The committee assessed the complaints as well as merits to decide on its release in Pakistan. On November 16, Sufi said that the committee had “recommended a full board review” of the film by the censor board to “reevaluate its suitability for screening. It is important to not negatively speculate about content without proof. The board shall review and make its recommendation.”

Variety further states that Pakistan’s censor board had granted a censor certificate to the film on August 17, but that was overturned on November 11 by the Information and Broadcasting ministry on the basis of written complaints that the film was “repugnant” and contained “highly objectionable material which do not conform with the social values and moral standards” of Pakistan society.

The film’s protagonist secretly joins an erotic dance theatre and finds himself falling for a fiercely ambitious trans-starlet. Sadiq and the ‘Joyland’ team appealed the decision. Earlier, the film’s executive producer, Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, had also spoken out against the ban.

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