Produced by: Maria Ekerhovd
Executive Producer: Alex Helgeland
Music Composed by: Lorenz Dangel, Martin Pedersen
Starring: Maria Mozhdah, Adil Hussain, Rohit Saraf, Ekavali Khanna, Ali Arfan, Sheeba Chaddha, Lalit Parimoo, Jannat Zubair Rehmani, Isak Lie Harr, Nokokure Dahl.
Released in Australia as part of the Scandinavian Film Festival 2018
Winner: Audience Award, AFI Fest 2017
Official Selection International Film Festival Rotterdam 2018
Official Selection Toronto International Film Festival 2017
It took many years for director and writer, Iram Haq to tell the autobiographic story of her past. To be able to tell of her experience as a sixteen-year-old, in the film known as Nisha (Maria Mozhdah), growing up in a Pakistani family living in Norway.
Now, after enough time has passed, Iram is able to show the pain of being betrayed and kidnapped with an unflinching eye.
No mean feat as the pain of this difficult time was caused by her family – her betrayal, the threat to kill, her abuse – all because, what would people think of her behaviour?
What Will People Think is an apt title as the embarrassment of the family is more important than the life of a girl growing up, just like her friends; the film about her father (Adil Hussain) as much as about her because it’s his over-reaction when finding a boy in her bedroom that sets the course of her life.
And the family follow his instruction. His son; her brother partaking in sending her back to Pakistan against her will, telling her to enjoy the trip, talking to his father about how cool the new BMW is while Nisha has no idea of her fate. Her life, not her own.
We are taken from the cold and snowy world of Norway, where kids play basketball and go to parties, to the heat of Pakistan, the crumbling old buildings and markets and mosquitoes showing the contrast of two completely different worlds.
It’s a nightmare that deepens as Nisha’s left with relatives in Pakistan, trying to make her way, only to be betrayed again and again, all under the guise of being for her own good; the continued harassment and relentless discipline, to do what she’s told under threat of death, her constant reality.
There’s a fierce emotive story here, told without dramatisation so the performance of Maria Mozhdah as Nisha hits harder, digs deeper.
The times I did have tears spring to my eyes were those warm moments when Nisha was seen, heard and loved – a little sister giving her a hug, or the simple attempt to fly an orange kite upon a rooftop.
And the humanity of members of the family are shown through their love of being together: cooking, eating, praying, bickering. All normal family stuff.
It’s the terror of stepping outside the social boundaries, of being found-out and shunned that turns good people into fearful people, into something cold.
The Norwegian Child Welfare Services are brought in to assess and act when the family show behaviour unacceptable in the culture they’re living. Yet the family isn’t all bad, the film showing love and warmth making it harder to see the turning away – the authoritative stance and abuse giving insight into the culture clash that stuns the sensors. To see a father spit in his daughter’s face, for her to lack any control makes me furious because it’s so unfair.
But the film isn’t about anger or hurt, in the end it comes down to courage and I was left with a lingering admiration of Nisha’s bravery.
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