Joyland’s Alina Khan on winning the Cannes Film Festival as a trans Pakistani actor

Now, more than two decades later, the actress believes her vision is coming to fruition. Khan began her acting career in 2019 with Saddiq’s short film Sweetheart, which also achieved international acclaim, winning the Orizzonti Award for Best Short Film at the 2019 Venice Film Festival. Determined to grow as an actor, Khan continued to feature in small commercials and other short films until that has joyland happened in 2021.”joylandWinning at Cannes means so much to me because I’m playing a trans dancer in the film – the same identity that I’ve been shunned my whole life earned us this award,” Khan says, adding that she sees parts of herself in Biba . Throughout our conversation, she points out that a trans actor playing the character of Biba is monumental because so often cis actors are cast and cast to play trans roles.

When Saddiq explained Biba’s personality to Khan, she immediately understood the anger that fueled the character’s passion to succeed as a performer and diva.nazakāt » (Urdu for elegance) with which it would command attention. In the film, when Biba’s community encourages her to join their protest for trans rights, she adamantly refuses to participate and says she would gain respect through her fame – this mimics Khan’s own experience of want to prove their worth through accomplishments.

“My family always thought I would put them to shame, only Ammi spoke to me for a few minutes while the others cut me off. Now they are actually proud of my success and that makes me the happiest,” Khan says, still brutally aware that she is far from accepted. In 2018, Pakistan’s parliament passed the Transgender People (Protection of Rights) Act which allows trans people to identify themselves on national identity documents and criminalizes discrimination in the workplace. Earlier this year, the Sindh government in Pakistan also allocated a 0.5% quota for trans people to get jobs in the government sector. Although these efforts suggest integration, violence against the trans community in the country continues to rise. According to the nonprofit Trans-Action Alliance, since 2015 more than 91 trans women have been murdered in Khyber Pakthunkhwa province alone.

Alina Khan and director Saim Sadiq attend the ‘Joyland’ photocall during the 75th Cannes Film Festival

Daniele Venturelli

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