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‘Joyland’: LHC seeks replies from Punjab govt

By Our Correspondent
December 01, 2022

LAHORE: The Lahore High Court (LHC) has issued notices to the Punjab Government seeking its replies on the 13th of December over a writ petition challenging the provincial government’s ban on the film ‘Joyland’.

Following the ban on the release and exhibition of ‘Joyland’ in Punjab, the producers of the film filed a writ petition in the Lahore High Court. The petition sought to challenge the ban on grounds of infringement of the fundamental rights of the producers. The petition was moved by the production house Distribution Club (Pvt.) Limited, and the film’s co-producer Sana Zahra. It was filed through their advocate Usama Khawar and the case was heard Wednesday by Justice Muzammil Akhtar Shabbir.

The film had initially been approved for screening throughout Pakistan by both the central and provincial film censor boards in August 2022. Earlier, the film was screened at international film festivals, including the prestigious Cannes Film Festival where it was critically acclaimed and won numerous awards. The film is also Pakistan’s official Academy Award nominee for the year 2022. It has been lauded as one of the finest masterpieces by the Pakistani cinema industry. Distribution Club (Pvt.) Limited has been behind many such acclaimed projects in the past as well and continues to be the pioneer in developing the local cinema industry.

Following the hype generated through national and international media, there was pressure from certain segments of the Pakistani population calling to ban the film based on “moral grounds”. The central government gave in to the demands and banned the film nationwide on 11th November 2022. In response, there was widespread social media uproar, which forced the federal government to constitute a “censor board review committee” which removed the nationwide ban subsequently.

Following the development, the Government of Punjab banned the release of the film in Punjab on grounds of “receiving complaints”. Sana Zahra, the co-producer of the film, in a statement said: “It is astounding how the Punjab Government has already received complaints when the film hasn’t even been screened yet. The ban is clearly an attempt to silence the media industry, suppress creativity, and let the dominant narrative of a certain segment of society prevail. Such a hit to the already infant Pakistan cinema industry can and will be fatal.”

The case has gained considerable media and social media attention, and civil society has gathered in support of the artists that have worked tirelessly to bring such a creative masterpiece to the cinema screens. The film is currently being screened throughout the rest of Pakistan, and the residents of Punjab are demanding the film be released in their province as well. The producers, the production house, along with numerous members of the cinema industry are calling for the removal of the ban and are criticising the Punjab Government’s actions.

Usama Khawar explained in a statement that the ban imposed through the order of the government does not even fulfil legal requirements to constitute a valid executive action. The petition, in addition to the protection of the fundamental right of freedom of speech and expression, calls for the accountability of the Punjab Government for taking such arbitrary and illegal actions.