We’re off to a good start to the week as we wake up to the news of Saim Sadiq’s Joyland winning an award at the Palm Springs Film Festival. Lead star Ali Junejo, who essays Haider in the critically acclaimed film, bagged the Best Actor Award at the coveted event.
The news was shared on Joyland’s social media platforms as well as Palm Springs Film Festival’s official website. Junejo, who wasn’t available to receive the award, expressed his gratitude in a video message. “I’m really humbled, this is a huge honour,” he can be seen saying in the clip. “I am so proud that our little baby, Joyland, has gotten where it has. It’s been around the world and it’s been getting so much love from so many people. It’s really touching.”
He went on to recall, “I remember when we were making this film in Gawal Mandi, we just wanted to tell this story as honestly as possible. And look at where we are; the fact that I am doing this, the fact that we are shortlisted for the Academy Awards, it is the most amazing thing.” Junejo continued to thank his director, Sadiq, for trusting him to essay Haider in the award-winning film.
He then thanked Rasti Farooq, Alina Khan and the rest of the cast for helping Haider find the way. Junejo shared he was grateful to the crew and producers Sarmad Khoosat Apoorva Guru Charan. “This is for all of us,” Junejo commented. “These characters have found such a place in my heart and I know all of us feel that way. I hope anyone who watches this also thinks the same.”
The actor concluded his acceptance speech by thanking his theatre family. “You guys, Sunil, Fawad – you believed in me for all these years, look at where we are now,” he said.
The jury, too, spoke about awarding Junejo for his noteworthy performance in the hit film. “We award the Best Actor Prize to Ali Junejo in Joyland for his intimate, thoughtful and nuanced performance as Haider, a man grappling with his diverging sense of self and familial responsibility,” the statement read. “Junejo emerges as the film’s most flexible and dependable performance owing to his generosity and earnestness with each cast member, both in behavioral and linguistic choices.”
Talking about Junejo’s acting prowess, the jury shared, “His ability to convey the ambivalent paradoxes of Haider, while delivering a performance of such searing clarity and empathy recalibrates the vivid textures of Joyland away from the social realism of its larger goals, turning it into an evocative character study in a performance of quiet complexity.”
Junejo, in a zoom conversation with The Express Tribune, earlier in September last year, revealed that he started working on his character in January when the film started its shoot in September. “With a film like Joyland that comes only in an x number of years, you have no choice but to follow your character wherever it goes. It was a really interesting challenge to find the ark of my character with Saim and it did take a lot from me. But I loved that challenge regardless of how difficult it was. I love that we all fared to give it that and more,” he said.
Joyland features a daring portrait of a transgender dancer in Pakistan that first made headlines when it won the Cannes Queer Palm prize for best LGBT, queer or feminist-themed movie. A tale of the sexual revolution, it tells the story of the youngest son in a patriarchal family who is expected to produce a baby boy with his wife. He instead joins an erotic dance theatre and falls for the troupe’s director, a trans woman.
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