Pakistani film Joyland may have faced trials and tribulations at home but to the international community, it was a banger from the start and now has been shortlisted for the Oscars, the first ever movie to do so from the country.
The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences on Thursday released its Oscar shortlists for the upcoming 95th edition in 10 categories.
Joyland is among 15 films that made the cut for the best international feature film honour and will advance to the final stage of nominations.
The critically-acclaimed film follows a patriarchal family, craving for the birth of a baby boy to continue the family line, while their youngest son secretly joins an erotic dance theatre and falls for a trans woman.
Sania Saeed along with Ali Junejo, Aleena Khan, Rasti Faruq, Salman Pirzada, and Sohail Samir are part of the main cast. It is produced by Apoorva Guru Charan, Sarmad Sultan Khoosat, and Lauren Mann.
Films from 92 countries and regions were eligible in the best international feature film category. India's Chhello Show (Last Film Show) also made it to the list, according to the official website of the Academy.
Other titles in the best international feature film category include Argentina's Argentina, 1985, Austria's Corsage, Belgium's Close, Cambodia's "Return to Seoul", Denmark's Holy Spider, France's Saint Omer, Germany's All Quiet on the Western Front, Ireland's The Quiet Girl, Mexico's Bardo, False Chronicle of a Handful of Truths, Morocco's The Blue Caftan, Poland's EO, South Korea's Decision to Leave and Sweden's Cairo Conspiracy.
Nobel laureate Malala Yousafzai, who recently boarded the team of Joyland as an executive producer, congratulated director Saim Sadiq for making it to the shortlist.
The official Instagram page of the movie shared a video of Yousafzai expressing her happiness to Sadiq over a phone call.
"You guys have done a tremendous job. This is a great moment for all the artists and also for Pakistan. It's an honour to be associated with this movie. This is amazing," she said.
Filmmaker Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy, chair of the Pakistani Academy Selection Committee this year, shared the news on her Instagram Stories.
"Ten years after forming Pakistan's Oscar committee, one of our own is on the shortlist! So much to celebrate," she posted.
This is not the maiden international recognition for "Joyland" as it was also the first film from Pakistan to be selected for the Cannes Film Festival and win the Jury Prize in the Un Certain Regard section.
Its release in Pakistan, however, was a tricky affair. After being cleared by the censor board, it was declared uncertified for containing highly objectionable material that goes against the country's social values and moral standards.
After facing backlash by celebrities and the public, PM Shehbaz Sharif formed a committee to review the ban, which was later revoked. Punjab reinstated the ban in the province though the film was released everywhere else and elicited glowing reviews.