Censorship is to art as lynching is to justice – Henry Louis Gate Jr.
Joyland was banned in Pakistan on the basis of showcasing objectionable content because according to the religious leaders it promotes homosexuality as it portrays a man falling in love with a transgender. This has sparked an outrage amongst the masses as this is taking away the right of freedom and speech and has once again shown that Pakistan has no room for creative expression.
Film censorship is a very unfortunate reality haunting the film industry for a very long period. Each time you anticipate groundbreaking content, you are rewarded with another ban. The question I believe we should all be asking ourselves is if our culture is so weak that it stands to be threatened by a film. Is it not hypocritical that we pick and choose culture/religion according to our needs?
Who then has the authority to determine if a value system is aligned when the value system itself is not a single representation but a gamut of values; of flawed humans learning to cope with life’s many obstacles?
Iram Parveen Bilal has very articulately questioned the ideology of film censorship, ” For isn’t this the ultimate goal? To have our stories be so complex and human that they speak to many beyond the niche; that they bring us together, rather than tear us apart? Then, who are we really “protecting” by censoring our films, calling them misaligned with Pakistani culture when yet again the Pakistani culture we seem to witness is not a unique representation but a range from the most liberal scenes that would put a Parisian nightclub to shame to the most expected conservative scenes in religious buildings? And whose minds are we shielding when these very minds have access to everything at the tip of their smartphones? And lastly, let’s be clear, everything that shows on the big screen in Pakistani cinemas doesn’t necessarily align with Pakistani values as perhaps perceived in this case of disagreement; then why are those let through?“
Background Of Film Censorship In Pakistan
In 1979 General Zia ul Haq introduced the Motion Picture Ordinance 1979 which curbed creative expression to a great extent. The ordinance stands to reject any film if the film goes against the security and defense of Pakistan, public order, or is prejudicial to decent and morality.
The ordinance however has failed to define what the terms “decency” and “morality” mean leaving it to the board to act arbitrarily. It is also interesting to note how the ordinance creates a nexus between film and the security and defense of Pakistan.
Athar Jawed Sufi was a member of the censorship board from 1979-1983. When he was asked about the credibility of censor board members and whether they possess the required knowledge for giving their verdict about films, Sufi shook his head from left to right in sorrow. “What I remember is that a censor board member use to get hardly Rs 400 for one film from the government. No member of the board is chosen by viewing their qualification and are usually picked based on their PR,” revealed Sufi. (Source: Tribune)
Few Films Banned In Pakistan In The Previous Years
1 – Insaan Or Gadha (1979)
This was produced, written, and directed by Syed Kamal. The film was based on the living conditions of people in Pakistan. The film was also a political satire which led to its ban since it had a scene that mocked Bhutto’s oratory style.
2 – The Blood Of Hussain (1980)
The Blood of Hussain was a venture by Jamil Dehlavi. It was based on the life of the youngest son of a Pakistani family that drew parallels with Imam Hussain and his struggles against the tyranny of Yazid. The film was banned due to the boy being shown as the leader of an uprising against a military government which was an example of Zia’s regime.
3 – Besieged In Quetta (2016)
This was a documentary directed by Asef Ali which shed light on the struggles of the Hazara Community In Pakistan. The censor board rejected this saying that it shows Pakistan in a negative light.
4 – Javed Iqbal: The Untold Story Of A Serial Killer (2019)
Javed Iqbal: The Untold Story Of A Serial Killer, centers around a notorious serial killer who murdered 100 boys in Lahore and sent evidence of his atrocities to the concerned authorities. The film was banned apparently due to the objection from the public.
5 – Zindigai Tamasha (2019)
Zindagi Tamasha is directed by Sarmad Khoosat and depicted a family in Lahore. It narrates the story of a man named Rahat who is a devout Muslim however one day a video of him dancing goes viral on social media which ensues chaos in his life. It features Arif Hassan, Samiya Mumtaz ,Emaan Suleman and others. It was banned due to protests by Tehreek e Labbaik who accused the film of being blasphemous as according to them it maligned the ullamas.
6 – I’ll Meet You There (2020)
This film is written,directed and produced by Iram Parveen Bilal. I’ll Meet You There portrays a Pakistani-American family who lives in Chicago. This follows the life of a father (Majeed) and daughter (Dua) functioning in the modern day society. Dua wants to be a dancer and her father is a police officer however one day Majeed is asked to surveil the people of his community which sparks a lot of challenges. The censor board cited that the movie did not adhere to true values of the Pakistani culture and puts the Muslims in negative light.
7 – Sheenogai (2021)
Directed by Abu Aleeha, Sheenogai is a film inspired by the Lahore-Sialkot motorway rape case.The movie shows the idea that a woman is not merely an accessory and is an actual human being. It faced objection from the censor board because it challenged the values and portrayed Pakistan as an unface place for women.
What do you think about film censorship laws? Do you think they are justified?
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