What Will People Say

What Will People Say is a gripping autobiographical film from Norwegian filmmaker Iram Haq that deals with the cultural conflict of first generation Muslim immigrants who must find a way to fit into the lifestyle of their newly adopted country while also adhering to the traditions and culture of their parents. 

Born in Norway to Pakistani parents, Actress, Writer, Director Iram Haq tells a disturbing personal story about the harrowing experiences she was subjected to by her own family when she was only 14 years old. She waited a long time to tell this story in order to give it the balanced treatment she felt it needed to understand her father’s behavior and also be true to her own feelings.

Part of the Platform program at the 2017 Tiff Toronto International Film Festival, where What Will People Say had its world premiere, the film is a searing indictment of the brutal subjugation inflicted on Muslim girls that continues to exist today in many European and North American countries where the practice of forced child marriage and so called ‘honor killings’ has been imported with immigrant families from India and Pakistan.

Nisha (Maria Mozhdah), born and living in Norway with her Pakistani parents leads a typical life of a European teenager when she is caught with her Norwegian boyfriend in her bedroom by her father Mirza (Adil Hussain) who is so outraged that he physically assaults the boy and tries to marry her off believing that they must have had sex.

When the misguided father disowns his daughter and Child Services gets involved, the family is so concerned about their reputation in the Pakistani community that the mother deceives Nisha into believing that all is now fine and she can return home only to be kidnapped by her father and brother who secretly take her by force to Pakistan to live in isolation with an Aunt she doesn’t know.

Horrified at being abandoned by her family in a country she has never been to, she makes several attempts to escape and communicate with her friends in Norway. Unable to leave, she is threatened with being married off to a poor family where she will spend the rest of her life as a child slave if she tries to escape again. 

Incredibly, Nisha’s ordeal only gets worse from there and she’s eventually forced to flee her family who subject her to ever increasing humiliations in the name of restoring their status in the community. 

Maria Mozhadah and Adil Hussain’s performances as the suffering father and daughter are powerfully convincing with real conviction and passion. A strong feeling of anger and outrage may accompany the viewing of this film and others like it that deal with this controversial topic. Forced child marriage is still widely practiced in all parts of Pakistan.

What Will People Say is part of an increasingly vocal and ever growing movement by female and male filmmakers to expose the shocking truth about the treatment of women by oppressive patriarchal and religious societies, but as the film points out, even as we become aware of these issues that exist in our own neighborhoods and cities, there is little that can be done to protect children from such abuses in the highly insular and socially controlled Muslim communities. 

Giving voice to issues of gender inequality has become vital in recent years as more female filmmakers are working now than ever before opening our eyes to disturbing practices in an ever increasing diverse world where it’s becoming imperative that we learn to live together in harmony.  

Here are some other excellent films that also tell similar stories: A Wedding - Noces (2016), As I Open My Eyes (2016), Sand Storm (2016), Layla M. (2016), Mustang (2015), Dukhtar (2014), and Circumstance (2011).


No comments: