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Following tedious smear campaigns, protests and challenges just a week before the release of Pakistan’s Official Oscar Submission this year, the film Joyland received a much-deserved green light on Wednesday.

The government has decided to clear Joyland for release after a second review by a committee formed by Prime Minister Shehbaz Sharif. Head of the Prime Minister’s Strategic Reforms Salman Sufi tweeted to make an announcement.

“Freedom of speech is fundamental right & should be nourished within ambits of the law,” he wrote.

According to media reports, “the committee concluded that certain scenes needed to be edited out of the film. The committee has decided to clear the film for release, however, the government has not yet withdrawn the notification of its ‘uncertified’ status. It needs to do so in order for the film to be cleared.”

Earlier, the prime minister formed an 8-member committee to look into complaints that the film was “against social and moral norms” and recommend follow-up action. The committee was formed under the chairmanship of Federal Minister Sardar Ayaz Sadiq. After thorough deliberations, it concluded that the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) should conduct a full board review to take final decision of its suitability for screening.

This is the result of the outcry on social media; the filmmaker Saim Sadiq, along with his team, actors, producers and many peers spoke in favour of the film’s release. The supporters of the film fought with the #banjoyland trend with #releasejoyland on social media and insisted that the film should be screened in Pakistan.

Joyland is a film that was cleared for screening by all censor boards in the country months ago but landed in trouble because complaints were filed to the CBFC from people who have not even seen the film. On August 17, 2022, the Central Board of Film Censors (CBFC) Islamabad had granted the censor certificate to Joyland.

The film got recognition on many international platforms and has bagged a number of awards including winning the Queer Palm and Un Certain Regard Jury Prize at the 75th Cannes Film Festival. It also got an eight-minute standing ovation at Cannes. In addition, the film also won the award for the ‘Best Film From The Subcontinent’ at the Indian Film Festival of Melbourne. Moreover, the film got another standing ovation this September at the Toronto International Film Festival at its North American premiere.

Read here: Joyland release halted after being deemed as ‘uncertified’, celebs stand in support of the film

Joyland is also Pakistan’s official Oscar submission for the International Feature Film Award category for the 95th Academy Awards. One of the many requirements for nominees include a theatrical exhibition. Due to the ban on its screening in Pakistan, a big question mark also appeared on its qualification for Oscars.

For international films, the rule states that they must be released outside of the US and its territories for at least seven consecutive days in a commercial motion picture theatre for paid admission. Hence, the Award strategists working on Joyland told Variety that they plan to give the film its required seven-day run in France by November 30, which is the qualifying release date cutoff for the Oscars’ international feature category.

If the film was submitted in general categories, such as best picture, it would have to be required to have a seven-day release in the US. However, the film does not currently have distribution yet. Additionally, Pakistan cannot retroactively choose another film as its entrant.

Unfortunately, despite these good news the battle is far from over for Joyland. The latest news is that the government of Punjab has banned the cinematic screening of the film in the province 24 hours after the federal government announced its decision to reverse the ban.

the government of Punjab issued a notice to the film’s producer, saying that they cannot exhibit the film in the jurisdiction of Punjab province.

“Dated November 17, the notice was sent to the producer of Joyland, Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, by the Punjab Information and Culture Department which read that under Section-9, 1 and 2 (a) and (b) of the Motion Pictures Ordinance, 1979 and the rules made thereunder, the government has decided to re-call Joyland “in the wake of persistent complaints received from different quarters”.”

Hence, they are not directed not to exhibit the film in the jurisdiction of Punjab province until further orders.

Written by Saim Sadiq and Maggie Briggs, directed by Saim Sadiq, and produced by Sarmad Khoosat, the film features Ali Junejo, Alina Khan, Rasti Farooq, Sarwat Gilani, Sania Saeed, Sohail Sameer, and Salmaan Peerzada.

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