City of Joy (film)

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City of Joy
City of Joy (movie poster).jpg
Movie Poster
Directed by Roland Joffé
Produced by Jake Eberts
Roland Joffé
Screenplay by Mark Medoff
Based on City of Joy
by Dominique Lapierre
Music by Ennio Morricone
Cinematography Peter Biziou
Edited by Gerry Hambling
Distributed by TriStar Pictures
(United States)
Warner Bros. Pictures
Release date
  • 15 April 1992 (1992-04-15)
Running time
132 minutes
Country France
United Kingdom
Language English
Budget $27 million
Box office $14,683,921

City of Joy is a 1992 French-British drama film directed by Roland Joffé, with a screenplay by Mark Medoff. It is based upon the novel of the same name by Dominique Lapierre, which looks at poverty in then-modern India, specifically life in the slums. The film stars Patrick Swayze, Om Puri and Shabana Azmi.


Hasari Pal (Om Puri) is a rural farmer who moves to Calcutta with his wife Kamla (Shabana Azmi) and three children in search of a better life. The Pals do not get off to a very good start: They are cheated out of their rent money and thrown out on the streets, and it's difficult for Hasari to find a job to support them. But the determined family refuses to give up and eventually finds its place in the poverty-stricken city.

Meanwhile, on the other end of Calcutta, Max Lowe (Patrick Swayze), a doctor disillusioned by an easy job in a Houston hospital, has arrived in search of spiritual enlightenment after the loss of a patient there. However, he encounters misfortune as soon as he arrives. After being tricked by a young prostitute, he is roughed up by thugs and left bleeding in the street without his documents and valuable possessions.

Hasari comes to Max's aid and takes the injured doctor to the "City of Joy," a slum area populated with lepers and poor people that becomes the Pals' new home and the American's home away from home. Max spends a lot of time in the neighborhood, but he does not want to become too involved with the residents because he is afraid of becoming emotionally attached to them. He soon, however, is coaxed into helping his new-found friends by a strong-willed Irish woman (Pauline Collins), who runs the local clinic.

Eventually, Max begins to fit in with his fellow slum-dwellers and become more optimistic. There are many around him whose lives are much worse, but they look on each day with a hope that gives new strength to the depressed doctor.



By contrast to some of Joffe's previous successes (The Killing Fields), the film was not a box office success, even on its modest budget;[1] According to the Internet Movie Database and Box Office Mojo, the film grossed $14.7 million in the United States.[2][3] Critically, the film received mixed reviews, with a 53% 'rotten' rating on review aggregate Rotten Tomatoes.[4]

In 2003, Hernán Vera and Andrew M. Gordon argued that the movie used the White savior narrative, summarizing it as " A white American doctor (played by Patrick Swayze) travels to India to find enlightenment. He sets up a free clinic to serve the poor, and though reluctant at first, he decides to stay with the people."[5]


  1. ^ "No Easter Basket for Box Office : Movies: 'Basic Instinct' winds up in first place over the holiday weekend, but business so far this year is down about 9%". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved 2012-06-09. 
  2. ^ "City of Joy (1992)". Internet Movie Database (IMDb). Retrieved 10 September 2012. 
  3. ^
  4. ^
  5. ^ Vera, Hernán; Gordon, Andrew M. (2003). "The Beautiful White American: Sincere Fictions of the Savior". Screen Saviors: Hollywood Fictions of Whiteness. Rowman & Littlefield Publishers. p. 33. ISBN 978-1-4616-4286-2. 

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