On the heels of writer-director Saim Sadiq’s latest feature “Joyland” being chosen as Pakistan’s Oscar entry, Variety film critic Guy Lodge discussed the project’s buzz in award circuit circles in spite of Sadiq’s doubts the film would be positively received by foreign audiences.

“Initially, it was a bit overwhelming, because when the news came out about Cannes and then the award particularly, it was a bit jarring for me because I was like, ‘I’m not sure how this film’s going to be received,'” Sadiq said in the Variety Streaming Room discussion, recalling when he won the Jury Prize at the 75th Cannes Film Festival.

Though Sadiq boasts an extensive list of credits as both a director and writer on various short films, “Joyland” marks the filmmaker’s feature film debut. Set in Lahore, a city in northeastern Pakistan, “Joyland” follows the Ranas, a middle-class family with stringent, patriarchal family values that are disrupted when the youngest son in the family (played by Ali Junejo) joins an erotic dance theater and falls for a transgender dancer named Biba (played by Alina Khan). Sadiq first penned the idea for “Joyland” as a college student at Columbia University, but adapted it into a short film he wrote and directed, called “Darling” for his senior thesis, which also stars Khan. The premise was then expanded into a full-fledged feature — a process that took six years.

Dialogue is spoken in Urdu, and despite being a critically acclaimed Pakistani film internationally, it has yet to premiere in its native country. Sadiq said audiences will be able to see “Joyland” in Pakistan’s theaters Nov. 18.

He hesitated to define the film as “queer cinema” — a label he said is sometimes perceived as controversial in Pakistani filmmaking — and instead described it as a drama with queer elements. The distinction serves to separate the film’s queer characters from its larger theme of generational trauma from conservative family traditions.

“There was a [Pakistani] film where there was a child who turns out to be a transgender, and it was a family drama, but it was a small part of the narrative,” Sadiq explained. “It was received with some controversy, but largely very well received. But again, it didn’t really take a queer cinema turn. It was very much a social issue, hot-button topic kind of cinema turn. It wasn’t really owning the queerness as far as the whole narrative is concerned and the ethos was not queer itself, I think, which is true for ‘Joyland.'”