(AFP) A Pakistani film with a bold portrait of a transgender dancer in the Muslim country won the Cannes “Queer Palm” award on Friday for the best film with an LGBT, “queer” or feminist theme, the jury chief told AFP .
A sexual revolution story, “Joyland” by director Saim Sadiq tells the story of the youngest son in a patriarchal family who is expected to conceive a boy with his wife.
Instead, he goes to an erotic dance theater and falls for the director of the company, a trans woman.
It is the first-ever Pakistani competitive entry at the Cannes festival and also won the Jury Prize on Friday in the ‘Un Certain Regard’ competition, a segment that focuses on young, innovative film talent.
“It is a very powerful film, which represents everything we stand for,” jury chairman “Queer Palm”, French director Catherine Corsini, told AFP.
Corsini himself received the prize last year with ‘La Fracture’, which shows the relationship of a lesbian couple against the background of the ‘Yellow Vest’ movement in France.
“‘Joyland’ will reverberate around the world,” Corsini said. “It has strong characters that are both complex and real. Nothing is distorted. We were blown away by this movie.”
The “Queer Palm” has been won by great directors in the past and attracted top talent to its juries, but has no official seat at the world’s best film festival.
Awards for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer films are already an integral part of other major film gatherings, including Berlin, which has presented the “Teddy Award” since 1987 and made it an official program.
Not so in Cannes, where the festival’s leadership won’t even allow the “Queer Palm” – which has been running for a decade – to settle in the main building, the Palais du Festival.
“It saddens me that the festival still leaves the Queer Palm cold,” Corsini said.
Past winners of the award, created in 2010 by critic Franck Finance-Madureira, include Todd Haynes for “Carol” and Xavier Dolan for “Laurence Anyways.”
“Joyland” beat out several other strong entries, including “Close” by Belgian director Lukas Dhont and “Tchaikovsky’s Wife” by Kirill Serebrennikov, both great contenders for the Cannes Festival’s best Palme d’Or award, to be announced on Saturday. .
“Joyland” left the Cannes audience with floppy jaws and admiration, receiving a standing ovation from the crowd on opening night.
Part of the surprise came from the discovery by many in Cannes that Pakistan is one of the first countries to give transgender people legal protections against discrimination.
In 2009, Pakistan legally recognized a third gender and the first transgender passport was issued in 2018.
“Pakistan is very schizophrenic, almost bipolar,” director Saim Sadiq told AFP in an interview.
“Obviously you get prejudice and some violence against a particular community on the one hand, but you also get this very progressive law that basically allows anyone to identify their own gender, and also identify a third gender,” he said.
For the short film award, the jury of “Queer Palm” chose “Will You Look At Me” by the Chinese director Shuli Huang.
Set in the filmmaker’s hometown, the diary-like film depicts a traditional society in which parents care more about their reputation than the happiness of their gay children.