The debut screening of Pakistan's first entry to the Cannes Film Festival felt like "a dream has come true", one of its stars Sarwat Gilani said after the film - which seeks to break gender stereotypes in her country - received a prolonged standing ovation. "It felt like the hard work that people do, the struggles that we face as artists in Pakistan, they've all come to be worth it," Gilani told Reuters on Tuesday. Gilani, a film and TV star best known for her latest series "Churails", plays Nucchi in "Joyland", which competes in the "Un Certain Regard" section, a competition focused on more art-house films that runs parallel to the main "Palme d'Or" prize.
Nucchi belongs to a household that has long hoped for the birth of a son to continue the family line, with the consecutive birth of her three daughters not enough to please her conservative father-in-law. And her brother-in-law Haider secretly falls in love with a transgender woman Biba, who fights for her right to work as a performer.
"Joyland" also explores the frustration of women seeking to pursue a profession, when Haider's wife Mumtaz falls into a depression for being forced to stay at home and do household chores and stop working as a make-up artist. "It's not just about a love story anymore. It's about real-time issues, real life issues that we all go through," Gilani said. "Having a woman, a trans, represent that sector of the society, I think it's a really good step in the direction where we can say we can write progressive stories."
Gilani said she hoped Pakistani movie-goers and critics would give "Joyland" as warm a reception as it received in Cannes.
"I'm very positive that at least our people will understand that this is also a kind of cinema that can be successful. If worldwide, then why not locally, nationally," she said.
The Cannes Film Festival runs from May 17 to 28, with the prizes awarded on the last day.