ISLAMABAD (AP) — Censors are lifting a ban on Pakistan’s Oscar entry, “Joyland,” but some scenes will be cut before the movie opens nationwide, an aide to the prime minister said Wednesday.
The film, which features a love story between a married man and a transgender woman, is Pakistan’s entry for next year’s Academy Awards and was a prize winner at this year’s Cannes Film Festival.
But it has sparked controversy in Muslim-majority Pakistan, and state censors banned its screening in movie theaters last week, reversing a previous all-clear for release.
Despite laws protecting their rights and a landmark Supreme Court decision designating them as a third gender, transgender people in Pakistan are still considered outcasts by many.
Salman Sufi, an aide to Prime Minister Shahbaz Sharif, told The Associated Press that the decision to lift the ban was made by a committee formed by the prime minister to evaluate the film. He said that the board approved the film with minor cuts.
“The verdict is a simple but powerful message that the government stands by and protects freedom of speech, and cannot allow mere smear campaigns or disinformation to be used as a suffocation of creative freedom,” Sufi said.
He did not reveal which scenes will be cut.
“Transgenders are citizens of Pakistan just like anyone else,” he said. We have opened a hotline from the Prime Minister’s Office for their problems and the Prime Minister is fully committed to protecting their rights.
‘Joyland’ is releasing in Pakistani cinemas on Friday.