Writer/Director Saim Sadiq joined MFA Film faculty to discuss his award-winning debut film, Joyland.

On Friday, February 2, Columbia University’s MFA Film Department welcomed back Screenwriting/Directing alumni Saim Sadiq for a screening of his 2022 film, Joyland. The screening was followed by a Q&A session with Sadiq, who imparted advice and anecdotes from his filmmaking experience to the audience, which consisted of current MFA and undergraduate film students. 

During its runtime of just over two hours, Joyland weaves an intricate story following several members of the Rana family as they navigate shifting relationship dynamics after their youngest son, Haider, gets a job at an erotic dance theater after years of unemployment. Haider, whose newfound career leads him to meet Biba, a transgender dancer, finds himself grappling with an attraction that will impact his entire life. A tender film that is at once a queer love story, a portrait of a family, and a love letter to the city of Lahore, Joyland is a visually stunning, skillfully crafted, achingly beautiful work that leaves the audience wondering if the last 127 minutes were some sort of dream.

Since its release, the film has received widespread critical acclaim, notably having been nominated for four awards at the 2022 Cannes Film Festival, of those four earning the Queer Palm and the Un Certain Regard Jury Prize. It also won Best International Film at the 2023 Film Independent Spirit Awards.

During the Q&A portion of the event, Sadiq recalled the joys and challenges of the production and creative process of making Joyland, offering realistic insight into the world of filmmaking. He recounted what it was like to go into production during the pandemic, the differences in filmmaking practices in Pakistan versus America, the casting process, and the several different versions of the screenplay that he went through before landing on the final cut. Students were also given the opportunity to pose their own questions, which ranged from curiosities about specific artistic choices to broader queries about the inspiration behind the story. Sadiq’s advice to the current students emphasized the importance of love for the craft, which was evident in his own work. 

Joyland is currently available to buy or rent on Prime Video and Apple TV.

Joyland via Columbia University