In What Will People Say, young Nisha (Maria Mozhdah) is caught in an irreconcilable culture clash between her Pakistani heritage and her Norwegian surroundings. At home, especially in the presence of her father, she plays the part of the faithful Muslim daughter. Out with her friends, she is your standard Western teenager – chasing boys, navigating high school, and just trying to grow up.
The opposing viewpoints collide one night, and Nisha is kidnapped by her father and forced to live with relatives back in Pakistan. This is all in service of teaching her (read: forcing her) to act in accordance with her parents’ wishes.
What Will People Say is not a particularly kind film, but it is obviously a personal one. Writer-Director Iram Haq lays the story out bluntly, forcing the viewer to walk alongside Nisha without any reprieve. It’s a harsh journey.
That harshness contrasts with Nisha’s “transgressions” to the point of absurdity. In my eyes, she’s just being a teenager – and a pretty tame one at that. But in the eyes of her family, she is renouncing their entire religion and culture, and by extension shaming them in the eyes of the community. This is their justification for the terrible way they treat her, and ultimately for the terrible way that she treats herself.
It is not easy to admit to yourself that your ideas about life may be wrong. It’s harder still to come to the realization that your path is diametrically opposed to the path of your family. What Will People Say offers a glimmer of hope, but one that comes at great cost.
Saturday, September 9, 2 PM, Winter Garden Theatre
Monday, September 11, 4:45 PM, Scotiabank 11
Friday, September 15, 3 PM, Bell Lightbox 2
Tickets can be purchased at the TIFF website.