Adapted from his award-winning short Darling, JOYLAND is the debut feature from writer-director Saim Sadiq, that explores the many sides of love and desire in a patriarchal society. Gentle and timid, Haider (Ali Junejo) lives with his wife Mumtaz (Rasti Farooq), his father, and his elder brother’s family in Lahore, Pakistan.

Following a long spell of unemployment, Haider finally lands a job at a Bollywood-style burlesque, telling his family he is a theatre manager, when in actuality, he is a backup dancer. The unusual position shakes up the steadfast traditional dynamics of his household and enables Haider to break out of his shell.

As he acclimates to the new job, Haider becomes infatuated with the strong-willed trans woman Biba (Alina Khan) who runs the show—an unforeseen partnership that opens his eyes and ultimately his worldview, in ways both unexpected and intimate. Mumtaz, meanwhile, is frustrated with the expectations of patriarchal society. Soon their desires collide, forcing them and their family to reckon with what has been buried for so long.

Without pretending to have all the answers, Sadiq raises important questions, while delivering nuanced characters who are all still searching for their own voice and for someone to listen. Not only is Sadiq’s visual style distinct, but his craft as a storyteller is also remarkable. This is a film that becomes increasingly more compelling as it reaches its undeniably emotional conclusion.

Official Selection, 2022 Toronto International Film Festival

Now playing at TIFF Bell Lightbox in Toronto. Tickets here.

Available from Oscilloscope.


I have lived with the story of JOYLAND for a very long time. Today when I look back, I realize that this entirely fictional yet emotionally autobiographical story came to my young adult brain like a gift. It became a means of investigating my own place as a young man who was never man enough for a patriarchal society.

As I grew up, I found the characters of JOYLAND growing with me, like the few teenage friends who stick around long after school is over. My struggles with the concepts of desire, tradition, masculinity, family, and freedom became their struggles. When I got too angry, they taught me to be empathetic. When they got too disillusioned, I cracked a joke or took them on a ride in an amusement park. Ultimately, their catharsis became mine.

JOYLAND is a de-romanticization of a coming-of-age tale and a homage to all the women, men, and trans people who pay the human cost of patriarchy. It is also a celebration of the desire that creates unlikely bonds and the love that immortalizes them. Ultimately, it is but a heartbroken love letter to my homeland.

About the Author

Bryen Dunn is a freelance journalist with a focus on travel, lifestyle, entertainment and hospitality. He has an extensive portfolio of celebrity interviews with musicians, actors and other public personalities. He enjoys discovering delicious eats, tasting spirited treats, and being mesmerized by musical beats.