Ali Raz at Public Books:
In a marked moment near the opening of Joyland—directed by Saim Sadiq and the first Pakistani film to be shortlisted by the Academy Awards—Haider meets Biba in a hospital in Lahore, looking dazed in a blood-splattered shirt. Though this is the first time they’ve met, we’re given no narration, just Haider’s wide-eyed, fascinated gaze. Later, in an intimate moment in her room, Biba tells Haider more about that night: about seeing her friend, also trans1, shot dead, and then finding herself unable to narrate the murder to the police. As she tells it, she gets stuck on a sentence—“I was with her at dinner”—glitching out in the face of representing the impossible.
She does, however, tell us her friend’s murder is the subject of a new documentary, for which a vulturous crew of German filmmakers have been poking around Lahore. Biba and her friends talk about the documentarians with open derision, knowing the exact flavor of international acclaim that awaits their contrived narrative of the tragic Third World queer.
Even so, the international acclaim for Joyland itself is noteworthy. Beyond its nod at the Academy Awards, the current count is 16 wins and 16 nominations, crowned by the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize as well as the Queer Palm at Cannes. It also claims Nobel Peace Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai as an executive producer.