On March 13, 2024, the Center for South Asian Studies (CSAS) will screen the first Pakistani film in its South Asian Film Series, Joyland, at the historic Michigan Theater in Ann Arbor. The screening is free and open to the public.

Joyland (Urdu: جوائے لینڈ) is a 2022 drama directed by Saim Sadiq in his feature directorial debut. The film stars Ali Junejo, Rasti Farooq, Alina Khan, Sarwat Gilani, and Salmaan Peerzada. Initially banned for theatrical release in Pakistan, the film was released with minor cuts in November 2022. 

Joyland tells the story of the youngest son in a traditional Pakistani family who becomes a backup dancer in a Bollywood-style burlesque in inner-city Lahore. The son quickly becomes infatuated with the strong-willed trans woman who runs the show. Their seemingly impossible love story highlights the cultural hurdles they must endure and slowly shows the whole family's desire for rebellion.

When discussing the film with Filmmaker last year, Director Sadiq said, “I mean, it’s 2023, and trans issues are something that’s important and necessary to talk about, but the conversation around the film somehow got co-opted by the trans element of it. I never looked at it as a trans-experience movie. For me, it was really as much about [Biba] as it was about the other two characters. I think the best way, perhaps, to humanize her presence was to just treat her as equally as the cisgender male and female characters—give her as many flaws and moments of joy and levity as possible instead of trying to make her look like a little princess who’s naive, cute, sweet and who we must always sympathize with.” 

Joyland’s premiered globally at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, making it the first Pakistani film to premiere there. The film won the festival's Jury Prize, as well as the Queer Palm prize for best LGBTQ-themed film. Joyland was also selected as the Pakistani entry for Best International Feature Film at the 95th Academy Awards. 

In March 2023, the New Yorker’s Anthony Lane said, “Pakistani director Saim Sadiq’s sensuous film mounts an indictment of misogyny and transphobia without ever lecturing us,” in his review of the film.

Launched in fall 2023, the South Asian Film Series includes popular and art house films, old and new, and collections of video shorts shown with English subtitles. Screenwriter, director, and lecturer at U-M, Veerendra Prasad, is the curator and chooses the films for the series. 

“Most of the films in the series are me trying to get audiences excited to explore more South Asian films of all types,” says Prasad. “Joyland will be an entry point for me as much as the audience. It’s the first Pakistani film that I can think of that has made a splash internationally. And while I’m well versed in the other regions the series showcases, I’m excited to dive deeper into the cinema coming out of Pakistan and bring those films to Ann Arbor.”

Joyland will be shown at 7:00 pm at the Michigan Theater, 603 E Liberty St, in Ann Arbor. To order your free tickets, please visit the Michigan Theater website, and a trailer is available online. Free popcorn will be offered to the first 100 ticket holders to attend.