With the Oscar 2023 nominations to be announced come January 24, 2023, I thought it was the right time to talk about two international feature films that showcase Muslim queer representation. Let’s see if Pakistan’s Joyland and Morocco’s The Blue Caftan can make the final cut!
Even though Pakistan is one of the few countries (as of yet) to provide protective rights to the transgender community, a film like Joyland was still surrounded by a whole lot of controversy, with a majority of the criticism (by people who hadn’t even watched it) stemming from the queer romantic relationship involving the film’s lead characters.
Directed by Saim Sadiq and co-written by Sadiq and Maggie Briggs, Joyland tells the story of a middle-class family that encounters emotional and societal chaos when the youngest son of the family, Haider (Ali Junejo), starts working at an erotic dance theater and then falls in love with transgender dancer Biba (Alina Khan).
While I haven’t watched Joyland yet, the reviews from critics have been incredibly positive. It currently boasts a 100% critic rating on Rotten Tomatoes from 19 reviews.
From what I could find, the general audience (the film finally had a limited release in Pakistan on November 16, 2022, after a bit of ban-related drama) has also shared that Joyland is a well-written story that doesn’t shy away from depicting the injustices still faced by the transgender community in Pakistan.
And of course, major points to Joyland for casting actual transgender talent to play the lead role instead of casting a cisgender male or woman, unlike what a majority of past films about the transgender community have been known to do.
Here’s the trailer!
Talking about the other Muslim queer film finding itself on the Oscar 2023 shortlist for Best International Feature, we have Morocco’s The Blue Caftan. From Maryam Touzani, The Blue Caftan tells the story of married couple Halim (Saleh Bakri) and Mina (Lubna Azabal) who find their lives changing drastically after hiring a young and passionate assistant named Youssef (Ayoub Messioui) to help run their traditional caftan shop.
Sparks begin to fly between Halim and Youssef as they spend more time together due to Mina’s health declining. And of course, drama occurs when Mina catches on to what’s likely happening between her husband and their assistant.
As of writing this, The Blue Caftan has a 93% critic rating over at Rotten Tomatoes from 15 reviews, with many praising how the narrative handled the concept of what it means to love someone.
Here’s the trailer!
While I appreciate Joyland and The Blue Caftan bringing queer Muslim representation to the globally-viewed Oscar stage, I am side-eyeing both movies a bit because they seem to feature adultery, which can be used to fuel the highly damaging stereotype about how the queer community is devoid of a moral compass, even though a whole lot of cishet people be doing the same thing without much societal consequence.
Baby steps, I guess. Baby steps.
While I couldn’t find any information about whether or not Joyland is available to stream on any digital platform, for those interested, The Blue Caftan will have an official USA release come February 10, 2023, courtesy of Strand Releasing (via Queerty).
Are you looking forward to watching these films?
Let us know.
Farid has a Double Masters in Psychology and Biotechnology as well as an M.Phil in Molecular Genetics. He is the author of numerous books including Missing in Somerville, and The Game Master of Somerville. He gives us insight into comics, books, TV shows, anime/manga, video games, and movies.
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