No one can say they didn’t see it coming, the ban on the Pakistani film Joyland. But the signing off on its exhibition by three censor boards had suddenly given some cinema-goers a bit of false hope. The mirage, as it were, is gone now, and we are left with the stark realities of cultural expression in the country pulled back into focus.
For a brief moment, the way a Pakistani bowling pace attack tears through those first couple of wickets and fans temporarily suspend disbelief in their minds and think their depressingly low total is, indeed, defendable, Pakistani film-goers had some hope kindled by Joyland and the mark it just might finally leave on the global scene, bagging arguably the biggest accolade in film, the Oscar. After all, it got rave reviews at Cannes and other reputed film festivals, and was Pakistan’s official entry for the Oscar awards for best foreign film. And it was getting raving reviews in the press. What was going to stop its fair fight to be first nominated for best foreign film, and then, maybe even clinch the award itself?
Well, there’s that little technicality requiring films in the category having been exhibited in the country for at least one week. With the ban on the movie, all Academy Award dreams have flown out the window.
The real tragedy moves beyond merely missing an award. Those, we can have many more chances at. The tragedy is how a mob, basically, can stop a form of cultural expression. Not even a mob, but a group of individuals threatening to bring out a mob. Three censor boards – Sindh, Punjab and Islamabad – whose job it was to see the movie and clear it, saw it and cleared it. The people asking for the ban haven’t even seen the movie and, therefore, don’t even know what they are protesting, really.
The focal point of the tragedy at the moment is the hapless transgender community, which has been told that they cannot be represented on screen as anything other than the butt of crass slapstick jokes. That fleshed out, realistic portrayals aren’t something that they deserve.
But does anyone deserve those in this state that even hates stories?