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Last night I was ready to watch Joyland, a Pakistani film by Saim Sadiq. After coming home from Pakistan in early December, my partner mentioned that I might not be in the right mindset for this and that I may find it really triggering. I really appreciated her saying this and I absolutely would not have been in the right mindset for this, especially as the film brings up so many more cultural issues than what is stated in the synopsis of the film. So I waited.

Joyland is a wonderfully educated film about the Pakistani experience and the trans experience. It centres around Haider, played by Ali Junejo, a young married man, who finds employment at an erotic dance theatre, working as a backup dancer for Biba, played by Alina Khan, who is a trans woman. Haider finds himself captivated by Biba and eventually falls in love.

The film holds a special place in my heart and may always do so. People often ask me if I watch Pakistani movies, to which I respond 'no' as I find most Pakistani dramas and shows to be centred around really tedious topics. Joyland is the first Pakistani film I have watched. It's set and filmed in Lahore, which is perhaps the most liberal part of Pakistan and the most artistic if I'm not mistaken. The performances in this film are astonishing, bold, and so vulnerable. There's so much to talk about - The practise of animal slaughter, the role of women in society and within a marriage, the pressure of having children (especially boys), sexuality, Pakistani community, and of course the trans community. You might be surprised to know that there is a visibly huge trans community in Pakistan.

I could write a whole book on this film and really don't want to spoil it. Joyland effortlessly makes it into my top 5 of 2023 list of films. I am extremely proud of the team behind this and it was an incredible honour to bear witness to this type of storytelling. I can only wish for the continued safety of everyone involved in this and hope they are able to thrive. Joyland is a tremendous success and is beautifully cinematic.

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