Representation Matters

Saim Sadiq’s Film ‘Joyland’ Heads to Movie Theaters in April

From the Cannes Film Festival, now to a theater near you, filmmaker Saim Sadiq’s debut feature Joyland will be made more accessible to theatergoers all over the United States. On April 7, 2023, the Urdu and Punjabi-language film will premiere in theaters to the masses in New York City’s Film Forum and will premiere on April 21, 2023 in Los Angeles’ Landmark Nuart Theatre. More cities are soon to be announced.

Joyland follows the story of gentle and timid Haider (Ali Junejo) who lives with his wife Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq), his father, and his older brother’s family in Lahore, Pakistan. After being unemployed for a long spell, Haider finally lands a job at a Bollywood-style burlesque revue as a backup dancer. 

The position rattles the traditional and more conservative values that exist in his household, causing Haider to tell his family that he’s a theater manager. Ultimately, the role helps Haider come out of his shell and creates a relationship with the headstrong Biba (Alina Khan), a trans woman who runs the burlesque show. An unforeseen partnership enlightens Haider and changes his worldview in intimate and unexpected ways. 

Sadiq’s film was lauded at Cannes, Palm Springs International Film Festival, Bangkok World Film Festival, São Paulo International Film Festival, Athens International Film Festival, Asia Pacific Screen Awards, and Film Independent Spirit Awards – including winning the 2022 Queer Palm award at Cannes. With a robust love story that places a trans woman at the center of it and becoming the first Pakistani film to premiere at Cannes and be shortlisted for the Best International Feature Film Oscar category, Joyland is expanding on-screen representation for South Asian trans people.

Oscar winner Riz Ahmed, who’s a producer for the film through his production company Left-Handed Films, took to Metro last month to highlight how impactful the film truly is and discuss how trans people are viewed within South Asian culture. 

“Transgender people have been a very established part of South Asian culture for centuries and centuries,” stated Ahmed. “And they can often hold a quite paradoxical position in the culture. They are visible and commonplace. It’s been like that for hundreds of years. And they almost occupy a privileged position, culturally and spiritually speaking, in that they’re thought to be able to kind of bless you or curse you, if you rub them up the wrong or right way.”

Now, a film that does so much for South Asian trans representation will be available to the public, starting next month. 

Photo credit: Oscilloscope Laboratories

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